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Letter: No need for Washington Avenue sidewalk

To the editor,

Last Wednesday (Aug. 8), the staff of the Carlton County Department of Transportation presented their plans at the new Cloquet Middle School for the rebuilding of Washington Avene in Cloquet. This fast-tracked plan includes the elimination of parking on the road. It features a center lane for turns as well as a controversial south-side sidewalk.

The sidewalk, to be sure, will disturb, disrupt and discommode every business and homeowner from Highway 33 to Highway 45. The county will tear out 11 feet beyond the curb in order to affect the walkway.

But is a sidewalk really needed? One sees very few people walking along this road. I lived for four years in Atlanta, where on most of the busiest roadways, there were no sidewalks.

The assistant engineer was asked about Washington Avenue pedestrian-use numbers. A survey had been done in February, when few would walk the street. He conveniently forgot to bring the survey.

As one who has studied the crime numbers in Cloquet for years, this letter writer can state with certainty that the people who live and work on this avenue do not want an influx of strollers, some of whom want to cut through yards and survey owners' property.

The assistant engineer was asked about snow storage from the county plow. Snow some winters has been banked 5 feet high. He had no valid answer.

In conclusion, it was astounding to hear from the county people that "nothing can be done to slow down traffic on Washington Avenue" except to pinch its flow. Then these people with bold faces step forward to shop this intricate plan "to slow traffic."

The best recommendation we've heard is to put in several more four-way stop signs; increase the police presence and give out hefty tickets to the mean, inveterate speed demons who use the route; hire a nice and animated old guy wearing a complete orange uniform to direct traffic during crucial times in front of the middle school.

The latter is what they have on a very busy four-way stop on Sanibel Island in Florida.

Clearly, the county Department of Transportation plan for Washington Avenue is an overpriced, overdesigned, foppish opera that should be consigned to the round file.


John L. Connolly, DDS