Save the Street Grid

Did anyone read the opinion column “Street grids a better option than subdivisions” in the Duluth News Tribune on Monday? The conflict between user groups and the city over the missing segment of the Cross City Trail from Irving Park to Munger Trail was avoidable. Had the city not abandoned the historic plats and in turn vacated rights of way (paper streets and utility easements), there would be a clear and defined route for the trail.

The historic plats — like the blueprints for the undeveloped land across the city — laid out a numeric street grid for the extension of the city’s street network.  It is logical, efficient, environmentally sustainable, navigable and good city planning.

Pre-platting the city with a numeric street grid structures a framework of rights of way and easements for future streets, cycle routes, etc. in a pre-determined network that obviates these kinds of conflicts because everyone can see what the future looks like.

And let’s face it, this is but one of many. The mess in Duluth Heights is the consequence of not planning the street network and allowing private property developers to subdivide the land into stand-alone ad hoc developments that impede connectivity and lead to landlocked properties.

What you’ve got now in Duluth is a paradigm in which the wheel must be reinvented every time a land use matter comes up. It’s no wonder it is so expensive to build anything because all this bureaucracy takes time, money and patience. It also invites controversy, division and conflict.

The city planning department should be focusing its time and efforts on the Central High School site, a redevelopment plan for the old Maurices headquarters, a vision for the old steelworks site and other big things that can revitalize the economy, not getting bogged down in every subdivision proposal, Costco or forcing “segment 3” against the will and wisdom of the user groups who know better where the missing link of the Cross City Trail should go.

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