Como, U consider byway routes

The byway only goes through three-fourths of the city of Minneapolis.

Joy Petersen

The Southeast Como neighborhood held a community meeting Thursday night to discuss the possible routes for the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway in Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis.

The byway project began nearly a century ago with the purpose of providing Minneapolis residents an opportunity to “take a stroll or buggy ride on a Sunday afternoon,” Nick Eoloff, Grand Rounds project manager, said.

The byway, which is much wider than a normal street, only goes through three-quarters of the city, missing the Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods.

“It would be a contiguous connection with the parkway system, and it will provide, I think, a little of what’s needed in the Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods Ö more green space, more natural areas,” Eoloff said.

Members and residents of the community gathered at the Windom Community Center to discuss issues surrounding the byway.

Gavin Watt, a Ward 1 representative to the Community Advisory Committee, said the byway is required to be 100 feet wide, whereas a regular street is 60 feet wide.

The byway’s purpose isn’t to facilitate transportation, Watt said, but rather to add green space and parks in the Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods.

Eoloff said the byway would have the same features as the already-existing byways in the rest of Minneapolis, including a motorized vehicle lane, bike and walking paths and green space.

Some residents weren’t so receptive to the proposed byway route.

Beverly Corvett, a Southeast Como resident who would lose her house to the construction of the byway, said she feels the plans have not been thought through well enough.

“I think if we took more time and sat down and looked at this more objectively, then maybe we could come up with a route that would satisfy everybody. I don’t feel that we have enough representation here. No one’s got the full rounded picture.”

Rhona Leibel, a 33-year community member who also would lose her house to the byway, thinks it will have two effects.

“We’ve put a fair amount of money into our house, so personally this will be a loss,” she said. “But I think more importantly the loss is to the whole city because this is a huge stable community of people who are professionals Ö all of who want to create a stable community for the city.”

The newly proposed routes would affect the Southeast Como and University neighborhoods because of the potential route down 18th Street through the University via Oak Street.

University representative to the CAC Jan Morlock said the byway would be an asset to the University community.

“The University is concerned about ensuring that the parkway is an asset to the community and to the campus,” Morlock said.

“Because some of the proposed alignments for the parkway do have a potential effect on University properties, we are also interested in that aspect as well.”

Grand Rounds is one of the six national byways in the United States. Scenic byways are recognized through legislation, and are given federal funding because of their historic and cultural value.

New leadership in the Congress is the reason the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is looking at completing the byway now, Eoloff said.

“It’s been placed as a top priority,” he said.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who heads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has a known interest in cycling, Watt said.

The Community Advisory Committee, which consists of elected members of Minneapolis neighborhoods, lends input to the board’s decisions regarding the byway.

The committee will eventually vote to approve the route, and then present it to the Parks & Recreation Board for further approval.