Friday, December 31, 2010

We need to do a makeover of Duluth

In 2007 I wrote an article for the Reader Weekly, "Economic development to beat all economic development" about tearing Duluth down and starting all over again.

As I've been clearing plowed snow off our sidewalk and getting ice out of the sump pump hose, I've been thinking about this again.

Snow plowed from the streets onto sidewalks is an old issue with me.  Suffice it to say that streets widened to accommodate more traffic mean narrower boulevards (tree lawns to some) to store plowed snow.

Much of Duluth has an early 20th century sewer system.  This means that storm water run-off often got into the sanitary sewers and filled the sanitation holding tanks past capacity.

First we had to have a sump pump installed and any basement drainage into the sanitary sewer blocked.  This meant that water that had been put into the sewers was now dumped out on the lawn.  Because Duluth is built on a hill, this meant the water would often run onto the sidewalk causing ice buildup in the winter.

Next we had to have our sanitary sewers from the house to the street replaced because ground water was seeping into them, contributing to the capacity problem.  This also meant that the ground was even more saturated after rains or thaws, and that meant that even more water flowed onto the sidewalk.

Add to this overflow problem that the snow bank acts as a dam and that many sidewalk sections are tilted away from the street, the overflow stays on the sidewalk.  This then means that homeowners need to spend hours each week to ensure that the sidewalks in front of their houses are accessible and safe.

Revisiting the ideas in "Economic Development", when we level Duluth to start again, we should include double sewer lines from houses, one for sanitary waste, one for ground water runoff.  We should rebuild all streets with a minimum of four-foot wide boulevards.  We should rebuild all sidewalks with a slight tilt toward the street, and we should place them higher than both the curb and the boulevard.

I'm sure you can add many more ideas about improving walkability in Duluth, but I'll limit this little essay to dealing with snow and ice.