Piedmont/Lincoln Park Hwy 53 stretch

Anyone have any idea who is responsible for the Piedmont/Lincoln Park stretch of Hwy 53? I’m guessing it’s the state that has dropped the ball on this one. Tall grass on sides looks like it’s never been mowed and the sidewalks are completely covered in a 1/8″ of gravel. The street sweepers came through the neighborhood and didn’t touch them.

Any thoughts on who to contact?



about 10 years ago

Well, since it is a state highway you would think the state would be responsible. 

During the planning phase prior to construction the state convened a group of neighbors to provide input on the design. One memory I carry from those times is that neither the State nor the City wanted to ultimately be responsible for maintenance of the sidewalks or green spaces along this road. 

MNDOT provides plowing services of Piedmont/Hwy 53 but clearing of the sidewalks and "Chunnel" are haphazard at best and seem to fall to the city from the rare occasions when I see them being cleared (well, other then one neighbor just above 12th on the west side who keeps the sidewalk cleared all winter long, including the bit that goes to parking area just below Skyline). 

There was hope expressed during that planning meetings that neighbors would take care of maintaining the green spaces along the road way (maybe gardens, etc). 

The road was also designed to have a top speed of 30 mph (I have the drawings to prove it). That went out the window within a year (did you know according to MNDOT a road's speed limit can be raised to the average speed most cars travel!). 

So - call MNDOT, but expect they will try to push you off on the City.


about 10 years ago

Thanks for the interesting response. I remember having discussions with my neighbor across the street (who was involved in the planning process, apparently he and his wife were partially responsible for the tunnel being built in) and he made it sound like the whole process was a fight with the state.

I'd love to see some sort of speed control to help allow drivers across the highway safely. It seems that 10th Ave is the most used (and my most used) by drivers coming up 24th from lower Lincoln Park and then crossing over to the little 'nook' neighborhood. I'd love to see a light or perhaps a flashing "CAUTION: LOOK FOR CROSS TRAFFIC" sign (much like the hidden entrances signs).

Do you think there would be any chance of drafting a neighborhood survey about these sorts of questions (and usage of the roads) in an effort to convince the city/state that changes should be made?


about 10 years ago

It was quite the process (I was on the committee). The tunnel was not really an option, it was that or nothing as pedestrian overpasses were ruled out due to the need for superloads to be able to pass through the area. Which is also why there are no stoplights on that section. 

The design was supposed to address the curve at 10th that was the sceen of many accidents.

Tenth is a very heavily (for this neighborhood) used crossing for not only drivers going in and out of the neighborhood but also for walkers and bicyclists. As you may have noticed the only bus shelter on 24th Avenue West is at 10th Street. 

This was known at the time of construction, but due to grade they were unable to put the tunnel where folks actually cross. 

I spent some, fruitless, time trying to get MNDOT to consider other options for safe pedestrian access across this road prior to the rebuild. And, once the tunnel was built, to have someone maintain it so it was safe to use year round (the first year it was covered in a foot of ice and the access points were rarely kept clear of snow and ice -- it hasn't improved much).  

Can't hurt to try to get the neighbors on board to ask the city/state to address the high speeds on this neighborhood road as well as access issues for the neighborhood. After all, MnDOT stated they didn't want Piedmont to be another "Mesaba Ave" (aka divide the neighborhood and be uncrossable by pedestrians).


about 10 years ago

Thank you for the reply wildknits! I'm a relative newcomer to the neighborhood (purchased in July of 2013) and would love to see some change come. That's very interesting about the superloads, and I can understand the logic behind no light. Perhaps a properly timed (very quick) light with an active "Prepare to stop" flashing light far enough down the highway would allow a superload to adjust their gearing and speed enough so they wouldn't have to stop?

For the sake of conversation, I'm posting the email  I sent to Jennifer Julsrud. I apologize for the length in advance, I tend to get wordy when trying to make a point.

Greetings Jennifer! My name is **** and I preside at ***** in (what I believe) is precinct 4. I purchased my home last year in July and as such am a relatively new home owner in this neighborhood. So far, I'm absolutely loving living in this little nook of Lincoln Park; quiet, good neighbors and excellent access to nature (I'm right next to Coffee Creek!). Of course, nothing is perfect and the elephant in the room for this neighborhood is Hwy 53/Piedmont. I understand that there is no perfect way to slice a neighborhood in half and run a four lane highway through, but I do feel that perhaps some minor, inexpensive changes could be made to improve everyone's lives. First and foremost, my biggest issue with the highway is crossing safety. While I appreciate the inclusion of the pedestrian underpass to lower Lincoln Park, this does nothing to help with car crossing. My average work day generally involves me driving west 10th St to Hwy 53 and waiting for an indeterminate amount of time for a clearing in traffic. Sometimes, I get very lucky and happen to slip across both directions in one go, other times I have to stop half way across the road and fit my car in a space that clearly was not designed for this purpose. Even more frequently, I think I have a clearing in traffic, but since it's a blind corner, find myself encountering a surprise car and flooring it across. I then abruptly stop due to traffic in the opposite direction. Rinse and repeat for my drive home. I've had MANY close calls, but find it incredibly inconvenient to drive up to the Piedmont light. This seems, to me at least, to be a poor design. I'm no traffic engineer, but feel that there must be something that could be done to improve this situation (probably a relatively cheap solution). In the "absolutely best case scenario" corner, I would love to see an intelligently timed/sensored stoplight at one of the crossings (10th or 11th). This light could be red for the vast majority of the time but will change to green when a car is present. This would have the added benefit of slowing traffic if forced to stop. In my "acceptable solution" corner, I would love to see some sort of signage that encourages caution on this stretch of road. I envision "RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY" or "RESIDENTIAL ZONE: PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL" signs at the top and bottom of this section (4th St to 13th St). Perhaps lowering the speed limit to 30 or 35 could result in cars going 40 or 45 instead of 50 or 55. I think many drivers forget that they are driving through what once used to be a single cohesive neighborhood. In addition to these safety concerns, I also have cleanliness concerns. I have heard that there is a bit of a tussle between the city and state in regards to what each entity is actually responsible for. The (very visible) sidewalks along this stretch of the highway are filthy and the grass along the side looks as if it has never been mowed. Also, the pedestrian underpass, stairs and walkway from Voss Ave down to the tunnel seem to be completely forgotten. Landscaping that was originally beautiful is now downtrodden. The concrete stairs coming down from 22nd Ave East are filthy and the flower beds along them are clearly no longer cared for. I understand that there seems to be a lot of politics in these issues, but I feel that the city or state (and I don't care which) should stop the back and forth and take ownership. The lack of cooperation with this is only hurting the image of the neighborhood; a neighborhood I am very passionate about. I would love to hear your thoughts on this and any suggestions you may have in regards to the next actions I should take. I'd like to do a door to door survey to gather data about road usage and safety opinions, I just want to make sure it's not in vain.


about 10 years ago

Sweep the sidewalks and leave the grass.  The desire for cut lawns is a strange U.S. cultural phenomena that is a waste of resources and environmentally damaging.  I just returned from Switzerland where they leave the grass grow.  It looks great, is great for pollinators, and we don't need to use internal combustion engines to cut it down.


about 10 years ago

Just for your information, I believe you are in District 4, not precinct 4 based on the location. Howie Hanson is the councilor for the Piedmont/Lincoln Park area.


about 10 years ago

You're correct moosetracks! I misread the city's council page. Thanks for the heads up; I have redirected my query to Howie.

@Bret: As long as I'm paying both the state and city for highway/road maintenance, I expect that roads (especially main arteries) should be maintained to the same level as any other area. In this case, neither entity is using my money to keep this stretch maintained.

I understand that cutting the grass seems needless and that doing so is more unusual in other areas of the world. However, as long as cutting the grass around highways and other places remains the standard, I'd rather not see my neighborhood become the catalyst for change. When the rest of an area adheres to standards and one single area does not, it only serves to degrade the appearance and overall "feeling" of the neighborhood.

I am more than willing to sweep the sidewalks here, but am hesitant to as feels like that would be giving the city/state an easy out to a problem they should be owning. If the sidewalks magically become clean, there's nothing for anyone to do, right?

Additionally, cutting the grass and sweeping the sidewalks are not the only issues. I'm assuming European nations maintain the flower boxes and other green space features? I would have rather had the state not install these items if they didn't plan to maintain them.

I appreciate the conversation around this issue.

banjo tom

about 10 years ago

Hello neighbor.

Some folks on 12th street made a vigilant effort to weed the East side of Piedmont for a year or two to allow some things they had planted during construction, but it was a lot of work and the next year they started sending the mower through.

I'm mostly upset about the sidewalks not being swept as this gets sketchy on my bike commute.  Perhaps I'll get that letter written now.

Another neighbor of mine was able to push through the pedestrian lane onto the skyline bridge.

It's way better than it was with the old "5-corners" stoplight - crossing was near impossible before the median was put in, but the speeds have certainly increased.


about 10 years ago

Thanks for the response banjo! The more emails the merrier.

I'll admit, I was barely of driving age when the 5 corners intersection existed, but I do remember it. I agree that this road is a significant improvement for traffic flow and safety. That however, does not mean that things can't be improved further.


about 10 years ago

aluminumpork - I have a feeling that we are near neighbors.

Thanks for bringing some energy to this issue. As you may have gathered I burnt out on my efforts to rally the neighbors and push for reasonable change a few years ago. I figured it was going to take a tragedy for MNDOT/the City of Duluth to respond to my concerns. 

Fortunately that has not happened! Though I must say that close calls probably happen frequently due to the blind corner between 22nd Ave W. and 10th St. and travelers high speeds. For now I remain agile and quick enough to scoot across on foot or two wheels and to handle the ice. As I age that will change and then I will be back to badgering the authorities to make some changes. 

I like your suggestions! Though again, will point out that lights were never on the table due to the superloads (I just asked for one at 10th that was activated by pedestrians trying to cross and received a firm NO). 

If the State had planted things that were meant to grow long (ornamental grasses, native wildflowers/grasses) I would be all for letting it be. But since it is a species that is meant to be mown then mow.  The idea was that the plantings would be self-sustaining to a degree, but again their hope was that the neighborhood would maintain them as well. 

I would love to see the Piedmont bus route brought back to Piedmont as well. It was "temporarily" diverted during construction and never returned to it's original route. It's too bad as they have some nice bus pullouts built in that go unused for the most part (and were completely unused until the #5 bus route came into existence). But that is a whole 'nother thread!

(Hi banjo tom! Thanks to you and your neighbors for efforts made to maintain the greenery early on).


about 10 years ago

Perhaps a little research should be done on how other communities (in Minnesota and beyond) have handled similar situations. I'm sure there are a lot of creative solutions that I would never think of to ease many of our concerns.

I would also like put a feeler out there about adding the "quiet grooves" to the stretch in a effort to reduce noise for homes near the road. Noise at my place isn't an issue, but I could see it being very annoying for others. Quieting the road could help mildly increase property values for homes on the edge and generally make life better.


about 10 years ago

Just an aside on Bret's comment--I agree philosophically, but Switzerland maybe doesn't have ticks, and we do.  We have to keep grassy areas mown if we want to keep ticks as far away from our biking/walking areas as is possible.


about 10 years ago

I was involved with the community meetings and the committee that worked on the reconstruction of Piedmont and I happen to know that the conduit is in place for stoplights at the Tenth Street intersection.  

The MnDOT should go back to the notes from the meetings that were held and take a close look at all of the concerns the community raised and they ignored. I think they will find that the people in the neighborhood knew what they where talking about.


about 10 years ago

They have ticks in Switzerland but lack the pathological urge to mow.  Mowing shoulders can be a considered a safety issue.  If they become over grown it is conceivable that visibility will be reduced.  It will be more difficult to see through corners and give a place for deer to lay in ambush ready to pounce in front of your car in a desperate suicide attack.


about 10 years ago

@Aldin: I agree; I don't expect all of the grass everywhere to be mowed. Just a foot or two off the side of the road is helpful.

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Read previous post:
Bliss – “When I Grow Up”

http://youtu.be/aKsoOTNPucA Duluth rapper Bliss released his new album The Most Important Things in Life are Invisible on Bandcamp today. Above...