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One last word on Shady Oak, in photos

The last in a three-part series making the case for a smarter plan to rebuild Shady Oak Road.

I admit, I am sounding a bit one-note with my little study of Shady Oak Road. But it's an expensive project that my elected officials are spending my money on. It's one that should be approached with the viewpoint of "How much bang can we get for our public bucks?", not just "How can we move the most cars as fast as possible?". There's just not enough financial benefit in moving cars to even come close to covering the cost of the project, let alone adding value to the city that will allow us to maintain what infrastructure we have, provide services for our residents, and make improvements that will make Hopkins a more desirable place to live.

In this last post, I wanted to look at the project in photos. Which of the photos better represents a pro-business, smart-growth government investment that will get the most return out of the taxpayer money that is spent?

Exhibit A has:

  • Four lanes of roadway
  • A wide median/ turn lane
  • A barely used sidewalk close by speeding traffic
  • Cars that go by too fast for drivers to notice what businesses are there
  • Businesses need parking lots, taking up space that could be used for larger buildings/more revenue-generating space
  • Roadway is designed to get cars through the area as efficient as possible... Get them to go past as fast as we can allow them... Customers bypass the area and spend their money elsewhere
  • Neighbors across the street had to be demolished, reducing the tax base in a small city with no space to grow

Exhibit B has:

  • Two lanes, only half as much to pave
  • A sidewalk where pedestrians feel safe
  • Slower traffic in which drivers can see what businesses and services are around more easily
  • With more pedestrian traffic bringing in customers, less space is needed for parking cars and buildings can take up more of their lots (more revenue generating space)
  • Dense, higher value development on both sides of road means more property taxes contributing to the city budget
  • Road is designed to bring customers to the stores, not to encourage them to bypass the area

The current plan for the reconstruction of Shady Oak Road is more like "Exhibit A". We have sufficient high capacity north-south routes in the area, and decimating the west end of Hopkins just so drivers have yet another way to bypass the city is not a smart investment. I say we pull for "Exhibit B", a smart investment that sets up businesses to flourish in a time when we need to make the most out of all our infrastructure investments. We should not pay for something that encourages customers to just keep driving past.

This article is also posted at Matthew Kilanowski's personal blog, King's Corner.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Maury Ballsteen February 17, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Matt, You have had some great points about this project. I was originally excited about the redesign of Shady Oak, as I live just a few blocks away, and it is treacherous for pedestrians. However, after reviewing your points, I can't help but see the logic of your argument. Something definately needs to be done with Shady Oak, but why not take the opportunity to create additional value rather then build a more efficient way to bypass this great city?
The Presidents February 17, 2012 at 07:22 PM
You do know that the impetus for the Shady Oak Road project is the North-South traffic which now bottlenecks through Hopkins on Shady Oak, causing traffic backups between Excelsior and Hwy 7. Shady Oak has never been a pedestrian-friendly area in Hopkins, and has never serviced its residential neighbors. This situation is in opposition to the Presidential neighborhood, to which your "Jackson Ave S." photo directly refers. That neighborhood welcomed the Southern expansion of Excelsior Blvd, especially the park-like sidewalk and green area which was added (your photo only gives a view of the North side of Excelsior Blvd, which also became larger, but is not residential, since there are no residences on the North side of Excelsior along that entire stretch).
Matthew Kilanowski February 17, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Thanks, Chris, but I'm not the one that needs to hear this. Please, if you get a chance, drop a line to the members of the City Council: http://www.hopkinsmn.com/council/about/members.php
Matthew Kilanowski February 17, 2012 at 08:11 PM
My question, then, is why are these people driving on Shady Oak Road? Are the majority of drivers on this stretch of road Hopkins residents, going to and from homes and businesses in Hopkins? Or are they only looking for a shortcut, a way to get past Hopkins? The citizens of Hopkins are being asked to pay money to lose more money, and the only "benefit" is that drivers bypassing the city have more space to wait at the light to get onto Highway 7. The Excelsior Boulevard expansion probably was a smart project for its time, but now times are different. Government budgets are tighter than ever and we can't just spend $12.5 million for cars to have more space to wait at a light. You say it's okay to build a miniature highway along this stretch of road because it's never been pedestrian-friendly anyway. I say let's spend our money to change that so that we get a return on our investment. Our city is small, the land is valuable, and we shouldn't tolerate another pricey bypass with a wide, empty "park-like" buffer between the road and the neighborhood.
Bruce Rowan February 26, 2012 at 05:25 PM
No, the majority of these cars are passing through, even now with a narrow road. Because it's there. The only other way to alleviate this traffic is to somehow cul-de-sac Shady Oak so there IS no through traffic possible. Your solution is to continue to deal with backed up traffic clogging Shady Oak Road in Hopkins.

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