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Transportation connectivity plan builds momentum

As I walked the skywalk from an event at the DECC recently, I couldn't help but envision how our transportation modes downtown may see some stronger, more exciting connections in the near future. It also reinforced the great possibilities that ex...

Kristi Stokes
Kristi Stokes

As I walked the skywalk from an event at the DECC recently, I couldn't help but envision how our transportation modes downtown may see some stronger, more exciting connections in the near future. It also reinforced the great possibilities that exist for improving a long stretch of skywalk that spans I-35 and serves as a pedestrian entry point to the downtown and to our jewel of a convention center.

Over the last few years, the Duluth Transit Authority has been pitching a multi-modal center for the downtown area. And, over the last few years, that support has been growing by way of federal funding allotments as well as making the City of Duluth's priority list for bonding and the governor's bonding proposal. The Greater Downtown Council and many other organizations have also given their support to the initiative and its

vision.

As a Downtown community, it is important to plan for various modes of transportation within our urban environment. Transportation access plays an important role in the success of a community. Additionally, it's important to strategize the opportunities for connecting those modes of transportation. Over the last few years, the GDC has been working to play a role in sparking dialogue on this issue by bringing numerous entities together to pitch ideas and brainstorm on how we can build a more strongly connected downtown. It's exciting to see the energy that is created surrounding some of this dialogue and the potential positive outcome.

Currently, the DTA is making great strides in its efforts to bring a multi-modal center to Michigan Street. Such a facility would not only connect public transit, but could connect intercity transit, bicycles, pedestrians and parkers. It would include bike storage and lockers as well as links to nearby parking and the skywalk system. This could also include improvements to the Northwest Passage, the heavily traveled stretch of skywalk system that spans the interstate.

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The timing is right for our downtown and the project has great potential to spur additional economic development and strengthen our public infrastructure. It will improve the condition of the existing transportation facility and network, contribute to the economic competitiveness of the Duluth area, improve energy efficiency, as well as improve the overall safety of the transportation hub.

It takes true partnerships to make something like this happen and it is exhilarating to watch those private and public partnerships coming together.

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549 or by e-mail at kstokes@downtownduluth.com .

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