Lansing City Council holds second in a series of work sessions with UERPC on Main Street/Highway 9 Corridor Visioning Plan

by Julie Berg-Raymond

Aaron Detter, senior transportation planner with Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) in Decorah, facilitated the second in a series of work sessions on the Main Street/Highway 9 Corridor Visioning Plan with the Lansing City Council during a special council meeting Monday, May 22 in Lansing City Hall. The work session was open to the public.

The objective of the plan is “to conduct a planning and visioning process for the City of Lansing, in collaboration with community members and stakeholders, which reflects the community’s needs, desires, and concerns for the Main Street/IA-9 corridor within Lansing,” Detter said in an email following the work session. “The end product will be a community-derived vision for the corridor that considers things like traffic safety, environmental impacts, historic preservation, and more. The Community of Lansing will be able to use the plan in pursuing individual funding opportunities, guiding infrastructure decisions, and, perhaps most importantly, in communicating the community’s vision and goals to the Iowa Department of Transportation when the time comes to reconstruct IA-9/Main Street in Lansing,” he added.

The May 22 work session was the second work session with the council for this project. The first was held February 3, at which time what Detter referred to as a “discovery” process was begun, intended “to identify both positive and negative aspects and attributes of Main Street.” For this, Detter noted, UERPC created a map-based digital tool where council members and other stakeholders could identify and describe specific features on a map using a mobile device or computer. “A similar tool will be made available to the community at large later this summer,” Detter said.

The focus of the May 22 work session, Detter said, was on “‘dreaming’ what Main Street could be in the future.” He presented council members with some examples of things to keep in mind as they envisioned a future Main Street - “things like pedestrian amenities, safety enhancements, lighting, wayfinding, street furniture, etc.” Council members were asked to write down and draw some of their ideas on a map of the corridor, and asked to complete the sentence, “In the future, I want Main Street to be…” The work session also included discussion of the timeline for stakeholder and community engagement which, Detter said, will happen this summer. That community engagement will include a specific work session with Main Street business and property owners; a community survey and interactive digital mapping tool like that undertaken by council members during the May 22 work session; and a community workshop meeting where, Detter said, “members of the public will be able to go through ‘discovery’ and ‘dreaming’ activities.”

The final “D” in the process is “designing” - “where UERPC will compile and summarize all stakeholder and community feedback and present visual concepts and maps in a final document,” Detter said. “The final document will be coordinated with and reviewed by the council to reach a final product.”

The Main Street/Highway 9 Corridor Visioning Plan is a detailed study - or cityscape - intended to outline a plan to update Main Street. Such an update would include new sidewalks and adjustments for handicap accessibility; new wiring, lights and poles; new sewer and water lines; and fiberoptic internet. The area involved begins at South Road and Highway 9; the focus is on the business district, but the plan also will involve all of Main Street. The City of Lansing hired UERPC with a $20,000 regional Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG), along with a 20 percent match of $5,000 contributed by the City, to conduct the study.

Among the ideas discussed during the May 22 “dreaming” work session was an effort to create “small green spaces” downtown, council member Curtis Snitker said during an interview following the meeting. Additional concerns, he noted, included making crosswalks and sidewalks more pedestrian-friendly; and improving lighting - with, for example, light poles that complement the architectural style of buildings on Main Street. “What stood out most for me was that the entire council was kind of on the same page,” Snitker said. “We all agreed that Main Street has bad lighting - some lights are not working; it’s something that’s needed. We all have the same concerns about the street not being pedestrian-friendly. And the infrastructure under Main Street is very old and we have to replace it,” he said. “It’s time to update the business district.”

The next regular meeting of the Lansing City Council is scheduled for Monday, June 5 at 7 p.m. in Lansing City Hall.