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Duluth City Council OKs Next Step in 1st Street Conversion

Baihly Warfield
Updated: February 24, 2020 10:41 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - Lots of questions remain about the city's efforts to convert 1st Street to a two-way, but councilors and city staff hope the final design phase will answer some of them.

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Monday night, the Duluth City Council approved a contract for city staff to work with an engineering firm to assess and design what 1st Street would look like as a two-way stretch from 24th Ave. E to Mesaba. 

Over the past several months, city representatives contacted affected property owners and held public meetings, but some still have questions. 

Ken Aparicio lives on the 2400 block of 1st. He said he got a letter last year when the city started looking at doing the conversion, and he has two main concerns. 

"There is a safety factor here because at the end of 1st St., right where it comes into 21st, there is no stoplight right now. So people, they would not be able to go across unless they're really taking a chance because traffic is going both ways on 21st," Aparicio said. 

He also worries about the tour buses he sees in the summer. He said they often stop on 1st Street to look at historic homes. With the current one-way configuration, Aparicio said other cars can go around. But if a bus were to stop on a two-way, he worries it could cause a jam. 

Barb Perrella, who works with the Building Owner Manager Association, had questions about how ramps on 1st will be converted and how difficult it will be for drivers considering the Superior Street reconstruction and medical district projects this summer.

"We are still very, very far from a final plan as there are still so many concerns," Perrella said at Monday's City Council meeting. 

The city's Director of Public Works and Utilities, Jim Benning, told councilors that the earliest the conversion could happen would be after Grandma's Marathon. Benning said the majority of the work, such as painting new stripes and covering up unneeded stoplights, city staff can do behind-the-scenes, making a transition "instantaneous" when the time comes. 

DPD Crowd Control Protective Gear

Councilors also signed off on a policy for the Duluth Police Department's crowd control protective gear. It lays out what criteria must be in place before the equipment can be used. 

When the council decided to buy the gear, it was a controversial, raucous night in council chambers. Monday night, the policy to govern the gear passed quietly. 

"I think it's a true statement -- and some may disagree with me -- that there is a legitimate use for this equipment," Councilor Joel Sipress said. "But I also think it's true that there's a long history in this country of this type of equipment being misused."

The Citizens Review Board spent months preparing the policy, and there were public meetings to present it and get input earlier this month. 

It passed the City Council unanimously. 

Credits

Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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