The Plan

Executive Summary

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Disclaimer:

The International Falls Safe Routes to School Plan Update is to be used as a guideline to enhance safety, inspire resilience, and leverage funding for proposed programs and capital improvements in International Falls. It represents the vision of an accessible, pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly International Falls, as conceived by the Safe Routes to School Team. As the Plan is ambitious and includes short-term and long-term action steps representing significant investment, this vision cannot be realized all at once, but rather over time with collaboration and persistence.

Therefore, this document should be referred to whenever transportation in International Falls is addressed, funding requests are made, and planning efforts are undergone. Only through partnership and consistent effort can the goals outlined in this plan be accomplished for the benefit of the International Falls community.

Contents

Introduction
What is SRTS?
The 6-E Approach to Planning
Why is SRTS important?
Status of State and Federal Support for SRTS
Background on School and Community
SRTS Team
Vision
Existing Conditions
Issue Identification
Action Plan
Education Plan
Encouragement Plan
Enforcement Plan
Engineering Plan
Evaluation Plan
Implementation Steps
Appendices
Appendix A: Maps
Appendix B: Survey Results
Appendix C: Assessment Data
Appendix D: Previous Recommendations (2008) Status
Appendix E: SRTS Funding Resources

Introduction

What is SRTS?

The Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) Program is a federal program originally created by the 2005 federal transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, to increase opportunities for children – especially primary and middle school students – to walk and bicycle to school safely. The federal legislature created this program, in part, to help reverse the alarming nationwide increase in childhood obesity and inactivity. The purposes of the program are:

  • To enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school;
  • To make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age; and
  • To facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity (approximately 2 miles) of select schools.

Each State administers its own program and develops its own procedures to solicit and select projects for funding, and since 2012, when SRTS became eligible for use of federal transportation funding, MnDOT has worked to develop programs to support SRTS efforts across the State. The program establishes two distinct types of funding opportunities: infrastructure projects (engineering improvements such as sidewalk improvements and street crossings) and non-infrastructure activities (such as education, enforcement, and encouragement programs).

The 6-E Approach to Planning

The Safe Routes to School planning approach to pedestrian and bicycle safety is effective because it is done comprehensively and covers six key areas, referred to as the “6-Es”:  Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, Equity, and Evaluation.

  • Education & Encouragement work together to increase the number of children who walk and bicycle to school safely; promotion activities play an important role in moving the overall SRTS program forward because they enhance community buy-in for more expensive projects, like sidewalk installations. (Project examples: Participate annually in International Walk/Bike to School Day events and celebrate walking and biking to school one day a week [i.e. “Walk & Wheel Wednesdays”].)
  • Enforcement provides the maintenance of safe conditions and practices for kids walking and biking to school by utilizing strong collaboration between local law enforcement, the community, and the school to maintain safe school zone conditions and proper pedestrian and bicyclist practices. (Project examples: Local law enforcement of traffic laws in the school vicinity, school enforcement of safe non-motorized behavior and vehicle drop-off/pick-up zone rules, and community initiation of a crossing guard program.)
  • Engineering addresses operational and physical infrastructure improvements that provide safe walking and biking facilities and reduce motor vehicle speed and risk of conflict. (Project examples: Establish school speed zones, separate bus and parent drop-off/pick-up zones, narrow roadways to reduce speed, and lessen street crossing distances by adding pedestrian islands or sidewalk bump-outs.)
  • Equity recognizes that some segments of a school population have unmet safety, transportation, and health needs due to physical or cognitive ability, geographic location, or socioeconomic status within a community; equity plays an important role in making sure these populations are considered and empowered in SRTS programs. (Project examples: Walking school buses and bike trains connecting schools to low-income neighborhoods, prioritized infrastructure improvements along corridors connecting schools with a neighborhood with a high percentage of underserved populations.)
  • Evaluation ensures that previously described approaches are having the desired effect of more active children, less traffic, cleaner air, and fewer injuries because of efforts within the community. Evaluation does not have to be complicated, but it should be done on a regular basis so that changes can be made in the SRTS program as needed. (Project examples: Daily counts of school bicycle rack use, interviews of parents following drop-off/pick-up zone changes.)

Why is SRTS important?

The SRTS program addresses a number of issues at and around schools, including traffic safety, children’s health, education, and funding. Without an adopted vision and plan to improve these problems, obtaining funding for improvement projects and programs would be difficult. A SRTS plan can help a school district and community plan for and address issues that hinder walking and biking opportunities to school. Additionally, having a SRTS plan in place better positions a school or city to pursue and be awarded related funding opportunities for project implementation when they become available.

Following is an overview of factors which support the importance of planning for Safe Routes to School.

National Trends

In 1969, nearly 50% of children walked or rode their bikes to school. Today, that figure is closer to 10%. The impacts of this change are quite dramatic:

  • Obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents, and data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys (1976–1980 and 2013-2014) show that the prevalence of obesity in the United States has increased over the past 40 years. For children aged 2–5 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 9.4%; for those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 17.4%; and for those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 20.6%; in 2013, three in 10 adolescents were overweight or obese. Obese children and adolescents are at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults, and obese adolescents carry higher risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes) than other children and adolescents.
  • Physical Activity combats obesity and other related health issues, but in 2013, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that only 27.1% of U.S. adolescents partake in daily activity. This represents a decrease in the number of children who are physically active in the United States. Based on successes in Europe and the drastic decline in the number of U.S. students who are walking and biking to school (as their parents once did), the CDC and other groups across the nation have been promoting “Kids Walk-to-School” programs that encourage physical activity as an integral part of a child’s daily routine. It assumes that teaching children the importance and pleasure of walking and bicycling to and from school may help to increase the likelihood that they will engage in other forms of physical activity. Data shows that physical activity may also improve academic performance and alertness in youth.
  • Traffic Safety, or lack thereof, is one of the top reasons parents do not allow their children to walk to school. The safety of children as pedestrians is a real concern. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2011 Traffic Safety Facts report show that children aged less than five years old up to 15 years old had high rates of injuries or fatalities occurring in non-intersection areas. Following is data on the non-intersection injuries or deaths pulled from Figure 1 – Pedestrians Killed or Injured, by Age and Location.

>5 years          50 cases          71.4%

5-9 years         44 cases          69.8%

10-15 years      91 cases          69.5%

This data points to the critical need to teach on-going proper pedestrian skills to children and young adults, stressing the importance to cross at intersections and at identified crosswalks when provided. The younger children in this age group have not developed the skills and experience to navigate traffic safely, including the ability to judge speed and distance. It is important to teach and practice safe pedestrian skills with our children as well as provide responsible adult supervision as they travel to and from school.

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  • Emerging Cultural Norms are acting as a barrier to the wellness of our children. More than 10% of all trips are “escort” trips, children being driven around by adults; and during the morning rush hour, escort trips account for almost one-third of all trips. Children today have much less independence, freedom to move around, and opportunities to “discover” their world than any previous generation, and children in the U.S. spend an average of more than one hour in a car every day and between three and four hours a day watching television. Parents report the primary barriers to their children aged 5-18 years old walking to or from school as (1) distance to school and (2) traffic-related danger. To address these issues, comprehensive Safe Routes to School (SRTS) initiatives focus on behavioral, environmental, and policy strategies in an effort to increase the percentage of children who walk and bike to school.

Status of State and Federal Support for SRTS

In December 2015, Congress passed a new five-year transportation bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act continued the consolidated program which provides funding for a variety of alternative transportation projects, including SRTS, that were previously separate programs. The SRTS program is now combined with other bicycling and walking programs into a new program called the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) Set-Aside Program. Each state is responsible for disbursing the federal funds within their jurisdictions. In turn, each state hosts a competitive grant program. Minnesota has an established SRTS program with State-allocated funding in addition to the federal Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program funds for SRTS projects; this program is administered by MnDOT.

Background on School and Community

The City of International Falls, serving as the county seat of Koochiching County, is located adjacent to the Canadian border in n

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Independent School District #361

orthern Minnesota, along the Rainy River and across from the City of Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. The International Falls area was known and documented as early as the 1600s, when indigenous tribes, explorers, missionaries, and voyagers traversed the region. However, the area was only officially settled in 1895, when teacher and preacher L. A. Ogaard platted the area on behalf of Koochiching Company.

Deriving its name from either the Ojibwe or Cree words meaning “at the place of inlets,” the original Village of Koochiching was formally incorporated in 1901. Two years later, its name was changed to International Falls, and in 1909, International Falls was incorporated as a city.

In 1905, Edward Wellington “E. W.” Backus, president of the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company in the early 20th century, built a dam on the Rainy River to power the company’s mills. The Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company was purchased by Boise Cascade Corporation in 1965, bought by an investment group in 2003, and sold to the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) in 2013. As of 2016, the company is the largest area business and employer.

As of 2015, the City was home to 6,158 people, which then accounted for 48% of the entire population of Koochiching County. According to the 2010-2014 American Community Survey, median household income in International Falls was $33,271, 23.4% of the population was considered in poverty, and 86.8% of the population reported as high school graduates.

The International Falls School District (ISD #361) is the public school district in northeastern Koochiching County. St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School serves as a faith-based private school in International Falls. Originally hosting 200 students in grades 1-6 when it opened in 1927, St. Thomas added grades 7 and 8 two years later, in 1929. After expansion of the school in 1959, the school started offering kindergarten classes in 1975, followed by pre-k classes in 1978. The school was accredited by the Minnesota Nonpublic School Accrediting Association (MNSAA) in 1995 and today serves Pre-K through 4th grade students.

As of 2016, 1,221 students were reportedly enrolled at Falls Elementary School and Falls High School in the International Falls School District (ISD #361). 40 students were enrolled at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School. In 2016, just under 30% of students were eligible to receive free or reduced lunch.

The Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) completed a Safe Routes to School Plan in 2008 for International Falls. In 2015, International Falls applied for and received grant funding to develop a Safe Routes to School Plan Update for the International Falls community, including Falls Elementary, Falls High, and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Schools.

SRTS Team

The SRTS Team, comprised of stakeholders representing schools, government, public health, law enforcement, community, and the public, met three times during the planning process to discuss the SRTS program in International Falls. The SRTS Team included:

  • Ken Anderson, City of International Falls
  • Tara Besch, Koochiching County Public Health & Human Services
  • Dawn Flesland, Thomas Aquinas Catholic School
  • Derek Foss, Koochiching County Public Health & Human Services
  • Matthew Gouin, Koochiching County Survey Office
  • Kevin Grover, Independent School District #361
  • Perryn Hedlund, Koochiching County Sherriff’s Office
  • Julia Herbert, Backus Community Center
  • Tom Holt, Independent School District #361
  • Tony Jaksa, Midwest Safety Consulting
  • Milt Layman, The Sports Shop
  • Rich Mastin, City of International Falls Police Department
  • Danielle Schermerhorn, Community Member
  • Melissa Tate, Falls Elementary School
  • Jenny Vohler, Community Education

Vision

The International Falls SRTS Team developed the following vision statement and subsequent goals to guide its work as a group:

Vision Statement

To increase community awareness and support for Safe Routes to School, improve safety around schools for pedestrians and bicyclists, and increase the percentage of students walking or bicycling to and from school to 20%.

Goal Statements

Education Goal

  1. Launch campaigns and host trainings that raise public awareness about safe walking and biking practices in International Falls.

Encouragement Goal

  1. Engage in programs and hold events that inspire the general public (and especially students) to walk or bike throughout International Falls.

Enforcement Goals

  1. Evaluate, establish, and/or uphold city ordinances and traffic laws to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists in International Falls.
  2. Continue and/or implement programs that support safe and efficient school zone operations during arrival and departure times.

Engineering Goals

  1. Complete the sidewalk and bicycle networks in International Falls by developing and maintaining connections between neighborhoods and schools.
  2. Develop a trail network in International Falls that enhances both walking and biking by building off-road trails that connect neighborhoods and schools.
  3. Support the creation of safe and efficient street and road crossings to empower student pedestrians and cyclists to safely and easily travel to and from school.
  4. Improve parent drop-off/pick-up zones at schools to support safety and efficiency during school arrival and departure.
  5. Implement a Safe Routes network that connects neighborhoods to schools and consists of highly publicized and well-travelled pathways.
  6. Make improvements to school sites that increase safety and complement pedestrian and cyclist facilities throughout International Falls.

Evaluation Goal

Monitor SRTS programs and walking/biking facilities in International Falls on an annual basis, and as needed.

Existing Conditions

This section outlines the current state of schools, bus transportation, parent drop-off/pick-up zones, bicycle facilities, walking facilities, snow removal, and healthy food retailers in International Falls. Maps outlining selected infrastructure and results from surveys, walk audits, and neighborhood assessments completed as a part of this process can be found in Appendices A, B and C.

School Buildings

The schools included in this Safe Routes to School Plan include the two ISD #361 schools (Falls High and Falls Elementary) and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School.

ISD #361 houses two schools on a central site and is adjacent to Rainy River Community College. The district’s campus is approximately one mile from the City’s downtown business district and originally established neighborhoods. Falls Elementary School is located on 15th Avenue, and Falls High School is on 11th Street West at the intersection with State Trunk Highway 11/U.S. Trunk Highway 71 (TH 11/71). TH 11/71 carries 6,400 vehicles daily. 11th Street has a traffic volume of 2,050 vehicles daily.

St. Thomas School is connected to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and is located approximately 0.3 miles from the City’s downtown business district in International Falls’s originally established neighborhoods. St. Thomas is located on 5th Street, one block south of 8th Avenue’s intersection with TH 11/71. At this location, TH 11/71 carries approximately 8,600 vehicles daily. 5th Street has a traffic volume of 580 vehicles daily.

Kootasca Head Start, hosted by Kootasca Community Action and located at the intersection of 2nd Avenue East and 23rd Street East in International Falls, was also considered throughout the planning process.

Bus Transportation

Bus transportation for students is shared between ISD #361 and St. Thomas School and is available for students in any grade at any distance. Bus drop-off/pick-up zones are located primarily along 11th Street (but also at the south entrance) at Falls High, within the circle in front of Falls Elementary, and along 4th Street at St. Thomas.

Parent Drop-off/Pick-up Zones

Parent drop-off/pick-up zones are handled differently at each school. At Falls High, parent drop-off/pick-up zones are combined with the bus drop-off/pick-up zone along 11th Street; bus drop-off/pick-up is also conducted at the south entrance of the school. At Falls Elementary, parents are directed to drop off their children in the south parking lot, where parents loop to drop off students near the parking lot entrance; some parents also choose to drop their children off along 15th Avenue. At St. Thomas, the designated drop-off/pick-up zone is located along 8th Avenue, although parents often utilize 4th Street, the bus zone, as well.

Bicycle Facilities

On-road bicycle facilities, such as dedicated bike lanes, are limited in International Falls; Shorewood Drive and Crabtree Boulevard are the only roads to host a designated pedestrian/bicycle lane in the City. However, per city code, bicyclists are allowed to utilize both the gridded street network and sidewalks for travel if desired.

International Falls Code of Ordinances, Section 8-3. – Bicycles.

  1. Right of way—Sidewalks. Whenever a person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. Provided, that it is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in a business district.

Off-road bicycle facilities are more prevalent. The largest designated facility for bikes in the International Falls area is the Rainy Lake Trail, which is still under development and parallels TH 11 to the northeast, outside of the City. The trail connects the City with Ranier and Voyageurs National Park. The western trail terminus is in International Falls just east of downtown at the intersection of Highway 53 and Highway 11, and the eastern terminus is on Highway 11 at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. Another trail (“campus connector trail”) aligning with TH 11 connects ISD #361 and Rainy River Community College with termini at the intersections of TH 11/71 with 11th Street and Keenan Drive. Notably, Koochiching County has been engaged in planning multi-use paved trails in the past few years, and numerous paved trails are planned to offer greater connections throughout the International Falls community. A recent addition to the trail inventory in the International Falls area is a paved trail designated for non-motorized use along CSAH 332 just south of International Falls; this trail connects the International Falls Airport with the Blue Ox Trail and serves as one leg of the expanding bike system in the area.

Bike parking is available at all three schools, and bike racks are located just northeast from Falls Elementary along 15th Avenue, at the westernmost entrance of Falls High along 11th Street, and near the entrance of St. Thomas School along 4th Street. Though present, these bike racks have been inadequate in capacity and design, deterring parents from allowing students to ride to school because poor bike rack design and an overflow of bikes utilizing the racks have damaged student bikes in the past.

Walking Facilities

In the City’s downtown and older neighborhoods, a gridded street network provides route choices for students walking or bicycling to school. There are sidewalks and smooth shoulders, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment with decorative, pedestrian-level lighting, sidewalks, and intersection bulb-outs. The sidewalks south of the downtown in the residential area, where St. Thomas School is located, are mostly complete. Around the ISD #361 campus, connectivity lessens with sidewalks around the school and along 15th Avenue, 11th Street, and Hwy 11/71. Most streets and avenues south and southeast of the school (especially east of Highway 53) lack sidewalks. The city ordinance does not require sidewalk installation in new developments.

Snow Removal

Per city code, homeowners are required to remove snow from their sidewalks within 24 hours after a snow event; 36 hours after snowfall, the City may remove snow from the property and assess homeowners the cost.

International Falls Code of Ordinances, Section 7-4. – Ice and snow on public sidewalks and other public property.

  1. Ice and snow a nuisance. All snow and ice remaining upon public sidewalks is hereby declared to constitute a public nuisance and shall be abated by the owner or tenant of the abutting private property within 24 hours after such snow or ice has ceased to be deposited.
  2. City to remove snow and ice. The city may cause to be removed from all public sidewalks, beginning 36 hours after snow or ice has ceased to fall, all snow and ice which may be discovered thereon, and it may keep a record of the list of such removal and the private property adjacent to which such accumulations were found and removed.
  3. Cost of removal to be assessed. The city administrator shall, upon direction of the council, and on receipt of the information provided for in the preceding subsection (b), extend the cost of such removal of snow or ice as a special assessment against the lots or parcels of ground abutting on walks which were cleared, and such special assessments shall at the time of certifying taxes to the county auditor be certified for collection as other special assessments are certified and collected.

The City removes snow banks from street intersections to improve sight lines. Clearing sidewalks is especially important in the local neighborhoods, where snow makes mobility difficult for students walking to school. ISD #361 and St. Thomas plow sidewalks at their respective sites.

Healthy Food Retailers

Through collaboration with Healthy Northland, ARDC included the location of healthy food retailers in its assessment of International Falls’s existing conditions, as equitable access to healthy food works with physical activity to benefit overall human health. Two retailers were identified through Healthy Northland’s healthy food inventory, both along the TH 11/71 corridor.

Issue Identification

As a part of the SRTS planning process, the International Falls community participated in parent surveys, classroom tallies, walking audits, and neighborhood assessments completed in late 2016 to provide feedback and input about existing walking and biking in school areas. Parent surveys and classroom tallies were administered by ISD #361 and St. Thomas School in September 2016. Among the three participating schools, 333 parent surveys and 45 classroom tallies (asking about how students travelled to and from school on three days) were completed; full results are available in Appendix B, Survey Results. In accordance with SRTS Team meetings, ARDC led walking audits at each school site in October 2016. With the help of ISD #361, ARDC also completed neighborhood assessments for ISD #361 schools and St. Thomas School in October 2016. These community outreach efforts helped identify the following issues surrounding walking and biking near schools in International Falls:

Education

  • The public is not aware of proper safety etiquette and/or rules for walking and biking.

Encouragement

  • Reportedly, 19% of students live within a 10-minute walk from school, but only 6-8% of students walk or bike to and from school regularly.
  • Adequate bike parking (i.e. rack capacity and design) is not available at all schools.

Enforcement

  • No parking zones (yellow curbs) are not enforced at school sites.
  • Private property owners and tenants often fail to clear sidewalks of snow, which hinders pedestrian movement; snow plowed onto sidewalks from streets hinders removal.
  • Heavy traffic volume and lack of separation between bus and parent drop-off/pick-up zones at all schools create dangerous conditions during arrival and departure.

Engineering

  • Wide, high volume roads (i.e. Highways 11/71 and 53) with few pedestrian crossing features act as barriers for students who wish to walk and/or bike to school.
  • Gaps in the City’s sidewalk network (i.e. along 11th Street, 15th Street, 17th Street, etc.) act as barriers for students from certain areas (i.e. South International Falls, Stenberg Addition, etc.) to safely access school on foot or bike.
  • Excluding shared infrastructure, International Falls has few bike facilities.
  • The intersection of Highway 11/71, Shorewood Drive, and Frontage Road is unsafe.
  • Some crosswalks throughout the walk/bike zone are difficult for motorists to recognize.
  • Some sidewalks do not include two-per corner Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramp designs; some mid-block crosswalks do not include curb ramps at all.
  • Certain roads (i.e. 15th Street between 11th and 9th Avenues) are too narrow to host additional facilities, and designated routes should be steered away from these areas.
  • Parent drop-off zones do not run efficiently and create unsafe conditions near schools.

Evaluation

An effort to regularly collect information on walking and biking does not exist.

Action Plan

The following action plan outlines goals and action steps related to education, encouragement, enforcement, and engineering as they are related to the Safe Routes to School program. The goal numbers correspond to the priority of the projects for each section. All goals and action steps are also organized into a matrix in Section 7, Implementation Steps.

Education Plan

Education works with encouragement to increase the number of children who walk and bike to school safely; teaching students about walking and biking plays an important role in ensuring safety for students in addition to forming lifelong safety habits. The goals and action steps below highlight the identified tasks associated with SRTS-related education in International Falls.

Goal 1:  Launch campaigns and host trainings that raise public awareness about safe walking and biking practices in International Falls.

Action Steps:

    1. Present the Safe Routes to School Plan to community organizations.
    2. Develop a public awareness campaign about safe walking and biking practices, including a reminder about city ordinances regarding biking.
    3. Acquire and place additional moveable, in-street “Yield to Pedestrian” signs to use throughout International Falls.
    4. Host walking and biking workshops (i.e. how to repair your bike, how to start a walking school bus, etc.) for parents, kids, or both.
    5. Distribute informational flyers on drop-off/pick-up zone policies to parents at the beginning of each school year to promote efficient and safe school zone practices.
    6. Continue to host bike rodeos to teach select grade levels about safe biking practices annually, and consider pairing a bike rodeo with a walking component for younger students.
    7. Assemble an educational bike fleet for use throughout Koochiching County; consider a partnership with northern St. Louis County.
    8. Incorporate lessons about safe walking and biking into the classroom by utilizing Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum or by taking active breaks or field trips.
    9. Develop {Your Neighborhood}-to-School maps, which will include designated Safe Routes and year-round maintenance notes, and hang them prominently in school entrances and/or lobbies, send them to parents at the beginning of each school year, and post the information on school websites.

Encouragement Plan

Encouragement works with education to increase the number of children who walk and bicycle to school safely; promotion activities play an important role in moving the overall SRTS program forward because they enhance community awareness about walking and biking. The goals and action steps below highlight the identified tasks associated with SRTS-related encouragement in International Falls.

Goal 1:  Engage in programs and hold events that inspire the general public (and especially students) to walk or bike throughout International Falls.

Action Steps:

  1. Participate in “International Walk and Bike to School Day” annually.
  2. Incentivize students to walk or bike to school during a select weekday, week, or month (i.e. Walking Wednesdays).
  3. Hold contests (i.e. poster contests, mileage tracking, etc.) that encourage students to think about walking and biking.
  4. Coordinate parent volunteers to lead walking school buses or bike trains from different neighborhoods.
  5. Identify the need for bike parking at school campuses, and install or replace bike racks as needed.
  6. Implement a Walk-on-in or Park and Walk program for students who are driven or bussed in from more than two miles from the school.
  7. Explore opportunities for “Safe Routes to Bus Stops” where rural students are picked up by the bus.
  8. Utilize partnerships with community volunteer groups (i.e. senior citizens) who would be willing to assist with ongoing encouragement efforts.
  9. Reevaluate bus pick-up area policies and consider seasonal options for bus pick-up within a quarter mile of the school.
  10. Develop and implement a volunteer crossing guard program, possibly utilizing student parents or higher-grade students.
  11. Place a volunteer in front of Falls High to direct pedestrians heading north toward TH 11/71 instead to the controlled TH 11/71 intersection with 11th Street.

Enforcement Plan

Enforcement ensures safe conditions for kids walking and biking to school by utilizing strong collaboration between local law enforcement, the community, and the school to maintain safe school zone conditions and proper pedestrian and bicyclist practices. The goals and action steps below highlight the identified tasks associated with SRTS-related enforcement in International Falls.

Goal 1:  Evaluate, establish, and/or uphold city ordinances and traffic laws to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists in International Falls.

Action Steps:

  1. Continue to enforce parking regulations in school walk/bike zones.
  2. Evaluate the city snow removal ordinance, and review and revise ordinance directives to ensure a walkable sidewalk network year-round; consider a city/county shared maintenance model in clearing designated Safe Routes.
  3. Continue to monitor and enforce school zones during arrival and departure times.
  4. Research the need for a radar trailer or speed feedback signs at speed limit transition zones or high speed corridors near school sites.
  5. Reevaluate the need for a city ordinance to require sidewalk and/or non-motorized transportation considerations in new developments.

Goal 2:  Continue and/or implement programs that support safe and efficient school zone operations during arrival and departure times.

Action Steps:

  1. Post an adult crossing guard at the intersection of TH 11/71 and 9th Avenue and other selected intersections, as determined necessary.
  2. Establish a drop-off student valet program, and engage volunteers to monitor parent drop-off/pick-up zones to streamline the drop-off and pick-up process during school arrival and departure.
  3. Consider the need for a student crossing guard program at Falls Elementary, Falls High, and St. Thomas.

Engineering Plan

Engineering addresses operational and physical infrastructure improvements that provide safe walking and biking facilities and reduce motor vehicle speed and risk of conflict. The goals and action steps below highlight the identified tasks associated with SRTS-related engineering in International Falls. For visual representation of these goals, visit Appendix A: Maps.

Goal 1:  Complete the sidewalk and bicycle networks in International Falls by developing and maintaining connections between neighborhoods and schools.

Action Steps:

bike-lane-example

Bike lanes offer a separate designated lane for bicyclists within the road right-of-way.

  1. Install bike lanes on TH 11/71 between 6th Street and 2nd Avenue.
  2. Install shared lane markings (aka “sharrows”) on 11th Street, 9th Avenue, and 17th Street.
  3. Repaint pedestrian/bike pavement markings on the designated pedestrian/bike lanes along Shorewood Drive, Crabtree
    Boulevard, and 22nd Avenue, and continue to maintain these facilities.
  4. Construct sidewalk (or a bituminous trail) along the south
    side of 15th Street between 15th Avenue and 11th
  5. Construct sidewalk (or a bituminous trail) along the west side of 11th Avenue between 15th Street and 17th
  6. Construct sidewalks on both sides of 9th Avenue between 15th Street and 17th
  7. Construct sidewalk along the north side of 17th Street from the intersection of Keenan Drive and 11th Avenue to 2nd Avenue West/Highway 53.
  8. Construct sidewalks along the south side of 11th Street between 11th Avenue and 9th Avenue and between 8th Avenue and 3rd Avenue/Highway 53, and along the north side of 11th Street between 9th Avenue and 3rd Avenue/Highway 53. Reconstruct existing sidewalks along 11th Street, as needed.
  9. Construct sidewalks along the south side of 7th Street (east of 3rd Avenue/Highway 53) and along the east side of 2nd Avenue between 7th Street and 4th
  10. Construct sidewalks along the west side of 2nd Avenue East from 26th Street to 22nd Street, and along the east side of 2nd Avenue from 22nd Street to 20th Reconstruct the existing sidewalk along 2nd Avenue East from 20th Street to 15th Street.

    sharrow-marking

    Sharrow markings are applied within a vehicle lane and call attention to legal use of the road for bicyclists. | Source: USDOT Federal Highway Administration

  11. Construct sidewalk along the north side of 15th Street East.
  12. Construct sidewalk along the east side of Highway 53 Access Road.
  13. Construct sidewalks along Riverview Boulevard and Park Avenue.
  14. Construct sidewalks in the Stenberg Addition along the west side of 14th Avenue and along the north and east sides of 16th Street West.
  15. Construct sidewalk along 13th Street West.
  16. Construct sidewalk along the north side of Home Lane.
  17. Construct sidewalk along the north side of 11th Street between TH 11/71 and Home Lane.
  18. Support a planning process to explore options for pedestrian and bicycle improvements along 4th Street, especially between 6th Avenue and 2nd

Goal 2:  Develop a trail network in International Falls that enhances both walking and biking by building off-road trails that connect neighborhoods and schools.

Action Steps:

  1. Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along TH 11/71 between 11th Street and 6th Street; also consider using Wayside (frontage road) as an interim segment of this trail.
  2. Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the south side of ISD #361 campus, connecting Falls Elementary to the existing campus connector trail.
  3. Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail, making connection to the Blue Ox Trail, along the west side of 11th Avenue between Keenan Drive and 20th
  4. Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the south side of 20th Street between 11th Avenue and 2nd Avenue East.
  5. Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along 13th Street East between 3rd Avenue East and CSAH 155 and along CSAH 155 between 13th Street East and TH 11.
  6. Add a paved lane adjacent to the Blue Ox Trail and in the old railroad right-of-way within the City of International Falls, connecting the existing paved trail along CSAH 332 to schools and other community facilities, and seek to officially designate non-motorized use as additional accepted use of the trail; collaborate with other trail corridor users (i.e. ATV clubs) to explore possibilities and potential design options that accommodate all trail users.
  7. Support continued development of the Rainy Lake Trail, and advocate for the creation of interim on-road trail connections during phases of trail development.
  8. Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the west side of TH 11/71 starting from Keenan Drive and travelling southward. (Note: This will be a segment of the planned Waters of the Dancing Sky Trail and will travel westward to Baudette.)
  9. Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the north side of CSAH 7 between Highway 53 Access Road and 2nd Avenue East.
  10. Extend the campus connector trail to the sidewalk at the intersection of TH 11/71 and 11th
  11. Designate trails with their official use designation (i.e. non-motorized, motorized, shared corridor, etc.) as they are developed.
  12. Conduct annual observations of paved trails conditions, and perform maintenance as needed.

Goal 3:  Support the creation of safe and efficient street and road crossings to empower student pedestrians and cyclists to safely and easily travel to and from school.

Action Steps:

  1. Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with 11th Street to make it safe for student pedestrians.
    Pedestrian Island Example_Wikis Take Manhattan 2009.jpg

    Pedestrian Island | Source: Wikis Take Manhattan 2009

    • Install a concrete median in the existing hatched buffer zone that includes a pedestrian island.
    • Install a “countdown” pedestrian crossing signal.
    • Restripe crosswalk with a ladder pattern.
    • Refresh pavement markings, and ensure that the TH 11/71 stop bar extends across the right turn lane.
  2. Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with Shorewood Drive to make it safe for student pedestrians.
    • Transition crossing facilities to the north side of the intersection.
    • Install a concrete median in the existing hatched buffer zone that includes a pedestrian island.
    • Install a “countdown” pedestrian crossing signal.
    • Restripe crosswalks with a ladder pattern.
    • Install a piece of sidewalk in the median between TH 11/71 and Frontage Road.
    • Install a crosswalk on the northeast side of the Shorewood Drive intersection with Frontage Road; explore additional safety features to ensure safe student crossing.
  • Make additional improvements to bring the intersection to ADA compliance.
  1. Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with 9th Avenue to make it safe for student pedestrians.
    • Restripe crosswalks with a ladder pattern.
    • Tighten radius of the southwest corner of the intersection, and restripe crosswalks perpendicular to TH 11/71 in order to minimize crossing distance.
  2. Enhance the intersection of 8th Avenue and 5th Street to make it safe for student pedestrians.
    • Implement a 4-way stop sign intersection in place of a 2-way.
    • Restripe crosswalk with a ladder pattern.
  3. Enhance the Highway 53 corridor to include “countdown” pedestrian crossing signals and ladder striped crosswalks at each traffic light intersection (4th Street, 7th Street, 11th Street, and 17th Street).
  4. Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with 6th Street to make it safe for student pedestrians.
    • Install a user-activated crossing signal.
    • Restripe crosswalk with a ladder pattern.
  5. Increase visibility of crosswalks by restriping with a ladder crosswalk pattern at th
    crosswalkdesigns

    Crosswalk Designs

    e intersection locations of 11th Street and 15th Avenue, 11th Street and Home Lane, 11th Street and TH 11/71, Shorewood Drive and TH 11/71, 6th Street and TH 11/71, 9th Avenue and TH 11/71, 4th Street and Highway 53, 7th Street and Highway 53, 11th Street and Highway 53, 17th Street and Highway 53, and 8th Avenue and 5th Street; consider creative crosswalk patterns at these locations as well.

  6. Identify and prioritize the need
    crosswalk_puerto_cruz

    Creative Crosswalk in Puerto de la Cruz | Source: MdeVicente

    for ADA enhancements at intersections throughout the walking network.

  7. Make enhancements (i.e. user-activated crossing system) to the Highway 53 intersection with 20th Street to accommodate for a future trail crossing.

Goal 4:  Improve parent drop-off/pick-up zones at schools to support safety and efficiency during school arrival and departure.

Action Steps:

colorful-crosswalk-sdot

Creative Crosswalk | Source: SDOT Photos via Creative Commons License 2.0

  1. Construct a parent drop-off/pick-up zone and walkway along the east side of Bronco Arena.
  2. Use a temporary parent drop-off/pick-up zone along 15th Avenue.
  3. In interim, increase visibility of the mid-block crossing on 11th Street in front of Falls High, which assists the Falls High parent drop-off/pick-up zone, by restriping with a ladder crosswalk pattern.
  4. In interim, study use of the parent drop-off/pick-up area at the Falls Elementary School parking lot and develop strategies to create a safe and efficient area for student pedestrians.

Goal 5:  Implement a Safe Routes network that connects neighborhoods to schools and consists of highly publicized and well-travelled pathways.

Action Steps:

  1. Develop a {Your Neighborhood}-to-School program, which maps Safe Routes on existing infrastructure between major neighborhoods and each school, and prioritize these routes for improvements.
  2. Utilize existing sidewalks along 11th Street, 9th Avenue, 7th Street, 3rd Street/TH 11/71, 3rd Avenue/Highway 53, 17th Street, 2nd Avenue East, and Shorewood Drive as interim Safe Routes; prioritize non-motorized enhancements along or on these streets (or determined alternative routes) and other determined roads (i.e. 20th Street) in the future. (Note: Temporary improvements may need to be placed until final enhancements are constructed in selected locations.)
  3. Monitor streets heavily used by students to walk to/from school and designate them as additional Safe Routes, as deemed appropriate.
  4. Research the possibility of the City implementing a sidewalk clearing program along designated Safe Routes to ensure these connections are clear for community members and students, and implement the program.
  5. Inventory lighting along designated Safe Routes and install additional lighting, if necessary, (i.e. along 17th Street) to ensure well-lit facilities during darker months.
  6. Implement signage or other markings along designated Safe Routes to raise profile of the Safe Routes program in International Falls.

Goal 6:  Make improvements to school sites that increase safety and complement pedestrian and cyclist facilities throughout International Falls.

Action Steps:

  1. Provide secure and covered bicycle parking on school campuses as deemed necessary and needed.
  2. Increase visibility of school zones.
    • Install flashing school zone signs at the intersections of TH 11/71 and 11th Street, 11th Street and 14th Avenue West, and 14th Street West and 14th Avenue West around the Falls schools.
    • Install flashing school zone signs at the intersections immediately surrounding St. Thomas School.
  3. Install removable bollards along the northwest corner of the Falls Elementary School parking lot to separate designated pedestrian space from parking lot traffic at the parent drop-off/pick-up zone.

Evaluation Plan

The following evaluation plan outlines goals and action steps related to assessment of the Safe Routes to School program. Each strategy listed is identified as either a short-term (1-3 years), long-term (3+ years), or ongoing. These goals and action steps are also integrated into the matrix in Section 7, Implementation Steps.

Goal 1:  Monitor SRTS programs and walking/biking facilities in International Falls on an annual basis, and as needed.

Action Steps:

  1. Annually evaluate the Safe Routes to School Plan Implementation Matrix.
  2. Administer parent surveys and classroom tallies every September, and as desired, to gauge perception of walking/biking and effectiveness of the SRTS program over time.
  3. Conduct an annual assessment of walking and biking facilities throughout International Falls, and create a map of existing facility conditions.
  4. Conduct manual pedestrian and bicycle counts at intersections throughout International Falls annually, or as desired.
  5. Utilize MnDOT trail counters, available through the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC), to monitor use of the Rainy Lake Trail, the campus connector trail, and other paved multi-use trails in International Falls.
  6. Conduct annual observations of school zones to monitor where students are walking or biking and where additional facilities would best serve student needs.

Implementation Steps

Implementation guidance for the Safe Routes to School program is integrated into the below matrix, which outlines goals and action steps for each of the 5-Es and identifies the timeframe and lead agency associated with each strategy. For the timeframe, each strategy listed is identified as either short-term (1-3 years), long-term (3+ years), or ongoing.

EDUCATION
Goal 1:  Launch campaigns and host trainings that raise public awareness about safe walking and biking practices in International Falls.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Present the Safe Routes to School Plan to community organizations. Short-term SRTS Team
2.     Develop a public awareness campaign about safe walking and biking practices, including a reminder about city ordinances regarding biking. Short-term Law Enforcement/SRTS Team
3. Acquire and place additional movable, in-street “Yield to Pedestrian” signs to use throughout International Falls. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County
4. Host walking and biking workshops (i.e. how to repair your bike, how to start a walking school bus, etc.) for parents, kids, or both. Ongoing ISD #361/St. Thomas/Law Enforcement
5. Distribute informational flyers on drop-off/pick-up zone policies to parents at the beginning of each school year to promote efficient and safe school zone practices. Ongoing ISD #361/St. Thomas
6. Continue to host bike rodeos to teach select grade levels about safe biking practices annually, and consider pairing a bike rodeo with a walking component for younger students. Ongoing SRTS Team/Law Enforcement
7. Assemble an educational bike fleet for use throughout Koochiching County; consider a partnership with northern St. Louis County. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas/Koochiching County
8. Incorporate lessons about safe walking and biking into the classroom by utilizing Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum or by taking active breaks or field trips. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
9. Develop {Your Neighborhood}-to-School maps, which will include designated Safe Routes and year-round maintenance notes, and hang them prominently in school entrances and/or lobbies, send them to parents at the beginning of each school year, and post the information on school websites. Short-term SRTS Team, City of International Falls, Koochiching County
ENCOURAGEMENT
Goal 1:  Engage in programs and hold events that inspire the general public (and especially students) to walk or bike throughout International Falls.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Participate in “International Walk and Bike to School Day” annually. Ongoing ISD #361/St. Thomas
2.     Incentivize students to walk or bike to school during a select weekday, week, or month (i.e. Walking Wednesdays). Ongoing ISD #361/St. Thomas/Parent Volunteers
3.     Hold contests (i.e. poster contests, mileage tracking, etc.) that encourage students to think about walking and biking. Ongoing ISD #361/St. Thomas/Parent Volunteers
4.    Coordinate parent volunteers to lead walking school buses or bike trains from different neighborhoods. Ongoing ISD #361/St. Thomas/Parent Volunteers
5.     Identify the need for bike parking at school campuses, and install or replace bike racks as needed. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
6.     Implement a Walk-on-in or Park and Walk program for students who are driven or bussed in from more than two miles from the school. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
7.     Explore opportunities for “Safe Routes to Bus Stops” where rural students are picked up by the bus. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
8.     Utilize partnerships with community volunteer groups (i.e. senior citizens) who would be willing to assist with ongoing encouragement efforts. Ongoing SRTS Team
9.     Reevaluate bus pick-up area policies and consider seasonal options for bus pick-up within a quarter mile of the school. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas/SRTS Team
10.   Develop and implement a volunteer crossing guard program, possibly utilizing student parents or higher-grade students. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
11.    Place a volunteer in front of Falls High to direct pedestrians heading north toward TH 11/71 instead to the controlled TH 11/71 intersection with 11th Street. Ongoing ISD #361
ENFORCEMENT
Goal 1:  Evaluate, establish, and/or uphold city ordinances and traffic laws to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists in International Falls.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Continue to enforce parking regulations in school walk/bike zones. Ongoing City of International Falls
2.     Evaluate the city snow removal ordinance, and review and revise ordinance directives to ensure a walkable sidewalk network year-round; consider a city/county shared maintenance model in clearing designated Safe Routes. Short-term City of International Falls
3.     Continue to monitor and enforce school zones during arrival and departure times. Ongoing City of International Falls
4.    Research the need for a radar trailer or speed feedback signs at speed limit transition zones or high speed corridors near school sites. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
5.     Reevaluate the need for a city ordinance to require sidewalk and/or non-motorized transportation considerations in new developments. Short-term City of International Falls
Goal 2:  Continue and/or implement programs that support safe and efficient school zone operations during arrival and departure times.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Post an adult crossing guard at the intersection of TH 11/71 and 9th Avenue and other selected intersections, as determined necessary. Ongoing St. Thomas
2.     Establish a drop-off student valet program, and engage volunteers to monitor parent drop-off/pick-up zones to streamline the drop-off and pick-up process during school arrival and departure. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
3.     Consider the need for a student crossing guard program at Falls Elementary, Falls High, and St. Thomas. Ongoing/Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
ENGINEERING
Goal 1:  Complete the sidewalk and bicycle networks in International Falls by developing and maintaining connections between neighborhoods and schools.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Install bike lanes on TH 11/71 between 6th Street and 2nd Avenue. Short-term MnDOT
2.     Install shared lane markings (aka “sharrows”) on 11th Street, 9th Avenue, and 17th Street. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County
3.     Repaint pedestrian/bike pavement markings on the designated pedestrian/bike lanes along Shorewood Drive, Crabtree Boulevard, and 22nd Avenue, and continue to maintain these facilities. Short-term/Ongoing City of International Falls
4.    Construct sidewalk (or a bituminous trail) along the south side of 15th Street between 15th Avenue and 11th Avenue. Long-term City of International Falls
5.     Construct sidewalk (or a bituminous trail) along the west side of 11th Avenue between 15th Street and 17th Street. Long-term Koochiching County
6.     Construct sidewalks on both sides of 9th Avenue between 15th Street and 17th Street. Long-term City of International Falls
7.     Construct sidewalk along the north side of 17th Street from the intersection of Keenan Drive and 11th Avenue to 2nd Avenue West/Highway 53. Long-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County
8.     Construct sidewalks along the south side of 11th Street between 11th Avenue and 9th Avenue and between 8th Avenue and 3rd Avenue/Highway 53, and along the north side of 11th Street between 9th Avenue and 3rd Avenue/Highway 53. Reconstruct existing sidewalks along 11th Street, as needed. Long-term Koochiching County
9.     Construct sidewalks along the south side of 7th Street (east of 3rd Avenue/Highway 53) and along the east side of 2nd Avenue between 7th Street and 4th Street. Long-term City of International Falls
10.   Construct sidewalks along the west side of 2nd Avenue East from 26th Street to 22nd Street, and along the east side of 2nd Avenue from 22nd Street to 20th Street. Reconstruct the existing sidewalk along 2nd Avenue East from 20th Street to 15th Street. Long-term Koochiching County
11.    Construct sidewalk along the north side of 15th Street East. Long-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County
12.   Construct sidewalk along the east side of Highway 53 Access Road. Long-term City of International Falls/MnDOT
13.   Construct sidewalks along Riverview Boulevard and Park Avenue. Long-term City of International Falls
14.   Construct sidewalks in the Stenberg Addition along the west side of 14th Avenue and along the north and east sides of 16th Street West. Long-term City of International Falls
15.   Construct sidewalk along 13th Street West. Long-term City of International Falls
16.   Construct sidewalk along the north side of Home Lane. Long-term City of International Falls
17.   Construct sidewalk along the north side of 11th Street between TH 11/71 and Home Lane. Long-term City of International Falls
18.   Support a planning process to explore options for pedestrian and bicycle improvements along 4th Street, especially between 6th Avenue and 2nd Avenue. Short-term City of International Falls/SRTS TEam
Goal 2:  Develop a trail network in International Falls that enhances both walking and biking by building off-road trails that connect neighborhoods and schools.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along TH 11/71 between 11th Street and 6th Street; also consider using Wayside (frontage road) as an interim segment of this trail. Long-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
2.     Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the south side of ISD #361 campus, connecting Falls Elementary to the existing campus connector trail. Long-term ISD #361
3.     Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail, making connection to the Blue Ox Trail, along the west side of 11th Avenue between Keenan Drive and 20th Street. Long-term Koochiching County
4.    Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the south side of 20th Street between 11th Avenue and 2nd Avenue East. Long-term Koochiching County
5.     Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along 13th Street East between 3rd Avenue East and CSAH 155 and along CSAH 155 between 13th Street East and TH 11. Long-term Koochiching County
6.     Add a paved lane adjacent to the Blue Ox Trail and in the old railroad right-of-way within the City of International Falls, connecting the existing paved trail along CSAH 332 to schools and other community facilities, and seek to officially designate non-motorized use as additional accepted use of the trail; collaborate with other trail corridor users (i.e. ATV clubs) to explore possibilities and potential design options that accommodate all trail users. Long-term/Short-term Koochiching County/MnDOT/MN DNR
7.     Support continued development of the Rainy Lake Trail, and advocate for the creation of interim on-road trail connections during phases of trail development. Ongoing Koochiching County/MnDOT
8.     Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the west side of TH 11/71 starting from Keenan Drive and travelling southward. Long-term Koochiching County/MnDOT
9.     Construct an off-road, non-motorized paved trail along the north side of CSAH 7 between Highway 53 Access Road and 2nd Avenue East. Long-term Koochiching County
10.   Extend the campus connector trail to the sidewalk at the intersection of TH 11/71 and 11th Street. Long-term ISD #361/City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
11.    Designate trails with their official use designation (i.e. non-motorized, motorized, shared corridor, etc.) as they are developed. Ongoing City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
12.   Conduct annual observations of paved trails conditions, and perform maintenance as needed. Ongoing City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
Goal 3:  Support the creation of safe and efficient street and road crossings to empower student pedestrians and cyclists to safely and easily travel to and from school.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with 11th Street to make it safe for student pedestrians.

§ Install a concrete median in the existing hatched buffer zone that includes a pedestrian island.

§ Install a “countdown” pedestrian crossing signal.

§ Restripe crosswalk with a ladder pattern.

§ Refresh pavement markings, and ensure that the TH 11/71 stop bar extends across the right turn lane.

Long-term Koochiching County/MnDOT
2.     Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with Shorewood Drive to make it safe for student pedestrians.

§ Transition crossing facilities to the north side of the intersection.

§ Install a concrete median in the existing hatched buffer zone that includes a pedestrian island.

§ Install a “countdown” pedestrian crossing signal.

§ Restripe crosswalks with a ladder pattern.

§ Install a piece of sidewalk in the median between TH 11/71 and Frontage Road.

§ Install a crosswalk on the northeast side of the Shorewood Drive intersection with Frontage Road; explore additional safety features to ensure safe student crossing.

§ Make additional improvements to bring the intersection to ADA compliance.

Long-term City of International Falls/MnDOT
3.     Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with 9th Avenue to make it safe for student pedestrians.

§ Restripe crosswalks with a ladder pattern.

§ Tighten radius of the southwest corner of the intersection, and restripe crosswalks perpendicular to TH 11/71 in order to minimize crossing distance.

Long-term City of International Falls/MnDOT
4.    Enhance the intersection of 8th Avenue and 5th Street to make it safe for student pedestrians.

§  Implement a 4-way stop sign intersection in place of a 2-way.

§  Restripe crosswalk with a ladder pattern.

Short-term City of International Falls
5.     Enhance the Highway 53 corridor to include “countdown” pedestrian crossing signals and ladder striped crosswalks at each traffic light intersection (4th Street, 7th Street, 11th Street, and 17th Street). Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
6.     Enhance the TH 11/71 intersection with 6th Street to make it safe for student pedestrians.

§  Install a user-activated crossing signal.

§  Restripe crosswalk with a ladder pattern.

Short-term City of International Falls/MnDOT
7.     Increase visibility of crosswalks by restriping with a ladder crosswalk pattern at the intersection locations of 11th Street and 15th Avenue, 11th Street and Home Lane, 11th Street and TH 11/71, Shorewood Drive and TH 11/71, 6th Street and TH 11/71, 9th Avenue and TH 11/71, 4th Street and Highway 53, 7th Street and Highway 53, 11th Street and Highway 53, 17th Street and Highway 53, and 8th Avenue and 5th Street; consider creative crosswalk patterns at these locations as well. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
8.     Identify and prioritize the need for ADA enhancements at intersections throughout the walking network. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
9.     Make enhancements (i.e. user-activated crossing system) to the Highway 53 intersection with 20th Street to accommodate for a future trail crossing. Long-term Koochiching County/MnDOT
Goal 4:  Improve parent drop-off/pick-up zones at schools to support safety and efficiency during school arrival and departure.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Construct a parent drop-off/pick-up zone and walkway along the east side of Bronco Arena. Long-term ISD #361
2.     Use a temporary parent drop-off/pick-up zone along 15th Avenue. Short-term ISD #361
3.     In interim, increase visibility of the mid-block crossing on 11th Street in front of Falls High, which assists the Falls High parent drop-off/pick-up zone, by restriping with a ladder crosswalk pattern. Short-term City of International Falls
4.    In interim, study use of the parent drop-off/pick-up area at the Falls Elementary School parking lot and develop strategies to create a safe and efficient area for student pedestrians. Short-term ISD #361
Goal 5:  Implement a Safe Routes network that connects neighborhoods to schools and consists of highly publicized and well-travelled pathways.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Develop a {Your Neighborhood}-to-School program, which maps Safe Routes on existing infrastructure between major neighborhoods and each school, and prioritize these routes for improvements. Short-term SRTS Team
2.     Utilize existing sidewalks along 11th Street, 9th Avenue, 7th Street, 3rd Street/TH 11/71, 3rd Avenue/Highway 53, 17th Street, 2nd Avenue East, and Shorewood Drive as interim Safe Routes; prioritize non-motorized enhancements along or on these streets (or determined alternative routes) and other determined roads (i.e. 20th Street) in the future. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
3.     Monitor streets heavily used by students to walk to/from school and designate them as additional Safe Routes, as deemed appropriate. Ongoing SRTS Team/ City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
4.    Research the possibility of the City implementing a sidewalk clearing program along designated Safe Routes to ensure these connections are clear for community members and students, and implement the program. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County
5.     Inventory lighting along designated Safe Routes and install additional lighting, if necessary, (i.e. along 17th Street) to ensure well-lit facilities during darker months. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County
6.     Implement signage or other markings along designated Safe Routes to raise profile of the Safe Routes program in International Falls. Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
Goal 6:  Make improvements to school sites that increase safety and complement pedestrian and cyclist facilities throughout International Falls.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Provide secure and covered bicycle parking on school campuses as deemed necessary and needed. Short-term ISD #361/St. Thomas
2.     Increase visibility of school zones.

§  Install flashing school zone signs at the intersections of TH 11/71 and 11th Street, 11th Street and 14th Avenue West, and 14th Street West and 14th Avenue West around the Falls schools.

§  Install flashing school zone signs at the intersections immediately surrounding St. Thomas School.

Short-term City of International Falls/Koochiching County/MnDOT
3.     Install removable bollards along the northwest corner of the Falls Elementary School parking lot to separate designated pedestrian space from parking lot traffic at the parent drop-off/pick-up zone. Short-term ISD #361
EVALUATION
Goal 1:  Monitor SRTS programs and walking/biking facilities in International Falls on an annual basis, and as needed.
Action Step Timeframe Lead Agency
1.     Annually evaluate the Safe Routes to School Plan Implementation Matrix. Ongoing SRTS Team
2.     Administer parent surveys and classroom tallies every September, and as desired, to gauge perception of walking/biking and effectiveness of the SRTS program over time. Ongoing ISD #361/St. Thomas
3.     Conduct an annual assessment of walking and biking facilities throughout International Falls, and create a map of existing facility conditions. Ongoing City of International Falls/Koochiching County/SRTS Team
4.    Conduct manual pedestrian and bicycle counts at intersections throughout International Falls annually, or as desired. Ongoing City of International Falls/Koochiching County/SRTS Team
5.     Utilize MnDOT trail counters, available through the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC), to monitor use of the Rainy Lake Trail, the campus connector trail, and other paved multi-use trails in International Falls. Ongoing City of International Falls/Koochiching County/ARDC
6.     Conduct annual observations of school zones to monitor where students are walking or biking and where additional facilities would best serve student needs. Ongoing SRTS Team

Appendices

Appendix A: Maps

Appendix B: Survey Results

In September 2016, ISD #361 and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School administered parent surveys and classroom tallies to their families and students. These tools helped collect information about how students travelled to and from school during the study period. Major findings are highlighted below:

  • The parent survey received a response rate of approximately 27%; multi-student households were directed to only complete one survey per family, so the response rate was likely higher.
  • The classroom tallies included a total of 45 classrooms.
  • Responses were received with a fairly even distribution of grade levels.
  • 9% of students live within a ¼ mile of their school; 19% of students live within a ½ mile of their school; 36% of students live within 1 mile of school; and 54% of students live within 2 miles of school. 46% of students live more than 2 miles away from school.
  • Parents identified the school bus as the most popular mode of transportation to/from school, although family vehicles compete heavily in mornings. In classroom tallies, however, a more even comparison was drawn between bus and family vehicle travel.
  • According to the parent survey, 6-9% of students walk to and/or from school, and 2-3% of students bike to and/or from school. According to the classroom tallies, 4-6% of students walk to and/or from school, and 2% of students bike to and/or from school.
  • According to the parent survey, 47% of students living within a ¼ mile of their school walk or bike to school, and 21% of students living within a ½ mile of their school walk or bike to school. Also, 53% of students living within a ¼ mile of their school walk or bike from school, and 29% of students living within a ½ mile of their school walk or bike from school. Walking is more prevalent than biking in each case.
  • Parents identified safety of intersections and crossings, speed of traffic along route, amount of traffic along route, weather or climate, and distance as the most significant issues for walking or biking to/from school. For parents whose children walk or bike to/from school, child’s participation in after school programs was also a consideration.
  • By and large, parents felt the school neither encouraged or discouraged walking and biking, walking and biking is neutrally fun, and walking and biking is healthy overall.

The following links provide a sample of the survey and tally sheets, as well as full reports:

Appendix C: Assessment Data

In October 2016, the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) completed the Safe Routes to School Neighborhood Assessment Guide to help assess the walking and biking environment near schools in International Falls. This tool helped the consultant identify additional problem areas with SRTS-related infrastructure throughout the school walk zones throughout each school neighborhood. The following pages provide full reports of completed neighborhood assessments for the ISD #361 campus and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School.

Appendix D: Previous Recommendations (2008) Status

ENGINEERING
Goal Timeframe Lead Agency Status
1.     Formalize path between 15th St and 16th St. 3-5 years City Incomplete
2.     Monitor streets used by students Ongoing City Incomplete
3.     Complete sidewalk network Long-term City Incomplete
4.    Improve Hwy11/71 Shorewood Dr intersection Long-term County/City Incomplete
5.     Increase visibility of school zone 2-3 years ISD #361/City Incomplete
6.     Narrow and designate bus zone at Falls Elementary 1-2 years ISD #361 Incomplete
7.     Use temporary drop zone along 15th Ave 1-2 years ISD #361 Incomplete
8.     Construct a parent drop zone east of Arena 3-5 years ISD #361 Incomplete
9.     Provide secure and covered bicycle parking 1-3 years ISD #361 Incomplete
EDUCATION
Goal Timeframe Lead Agency Status
1.     Present Plan to community organizations 1-2 years SRTS Committee Incomplete
2.     Develop a public awareness campaign 1-2 years ISD #361 Incomplete
3.     Host a safety training 1 year ISD #361 Incomplete
4.    Distribute flyer on drop zone policies 1 year ISD #361 Complete
ENCOURAGEMENT
Goal Timeframe Lead Agency Status
1.     Hold “Walk to School Day” annually Annually ISD #361 Complete
2.     Increase crosswalk visibility 2-3 years City/County Incomplete
ENFORCEMENT
Goal Timeframe Lead Agency Status
1.     Employ an adult crossing guard 1-2 years School Incomplete
2.     Increase efforts to enforce parking regulations 1-2 years City Ongoing
3.     Evaluate snow removal ordinance 2-5 years City Incomplete
EVALUATION
Goal Timeframe Lead Agency Status
1.     Annually evaluate SRTS implementation Annually ISD #361 Incomplete

Appendix E: SRTS Funding Resources

The following information outlines the federal and state funding available to the SRTS program for grants and statewide programs for the next two years. The state fiscal year begins July 1, 2016, which means $1 million in non-infrastructure SRTS funds is available to the program for 2016-2017. The schedule, programs and grant funding levels were developed by MnDOT under advisory from the SRTS Steering Committee. This information is preliminary and may change throughout the next two years. Applications and solicitation details will be available in the fall.

Sign up for our MnDOT SRTS email list for announcements and visit the MnDOT SRTS website for additional information, and for continually updated information on SRTS funding resources, visit the MnSRTS Resource Center funding page.

Types of Funding

  • Federal Funds: Safe Routes to School federal funding was distributed to every state from 2005-2012. In 2012, the federal Safe Routes to School program was replaced with the Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program, a program for which SRTS projects are eligible to apply. For more information, visit MnDOT’s TA and future Minnesota TA solicitations page. These federal funds require a 20 percent match.
  • State Funds: In 2012, the Minnesota State Legislature created a state Safe Routes to School program modeled after the federal program. In 2013, the State invested $250,000 per year in non-infrastructure programs from the general fund. In 2014, the state increased this to $500,000 per year and also provided a $1 million one-time investment of infrastructure funding in 2015. However, by not passing the transportation bill, the legislature did not designate funding for SRTS in 2016. The MnDOT programs and resources usually available through designated SRTS funds are listed below. It should be noted that other funding opportunities, especially for trail development, are available through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

2016-2017 MnDOT Grants and Programs

  • Walk! Bike! Fun! Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Curriculum: In 2013, MnDOT contracted with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) to develop a Minnesota-specific safety curriculum for youth that meets state standards. BikeMN trains teachers and school-related staff to teach Walk! Bike! Fun! and also provides technical assistance to schools and communities.
  • Minnesota SRTS Resource Center: This online resource provides SRTS tools, resources, and information needed for all partners – including parents, teachers, students, schools, school districts, communities, and others – at dot.state.mn.us/mnsaferoutes.
  • Program Administration: MnDOT offers administrative support for SRTS as well as funding for trainings, periodically.
  • Planning Assistance Grants: Through MnDOT, communities can apply for planning assistance to develop SRTS plans. If a community is awarded, MnDOT contracts with regional development organizations or a statewide SRTS consultant to facilitate the process. Since 2006, MnDOT has funded more than 200 schools.
  • Bicycle Fleets and Mini-grants: Through MnDOT, communities can apply for small grants to start or expand SRTS school programs (crossing guards, bike trains, Walk to School Day) or develop a bicycle fleet. These programs are announced periodically and do not follow a regular schedule.
  • Infrastructure Grants: Through MnDOT, communities can apply for funds to construct infrastructure that improves access and safety around schools. Past grants included sidewalks to schools, trails along state highways, and improved crossings on school walking routes. A SRTS plan is required to apply.

Visit the MnDOT SRTS website for more information on solicitations.

Other Funding/Support

Communities in Minnesota are most successful at creating positive changes and implementing comprehensive SRTS programs when they have multiple sources of funding and support. Apart from federal and state funding, examples of regional- and local-level support for SRTS-related work include:

  • Local Businesses: Bike Shops, Community-minded Businesses, etc.
  • Local Community Organizations: Lions Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, etc.
  • Health organizations: County Public Health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, etc.
  • Regional Foundations: Northland Foundation, Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, etc.

Download a PDF copy of this plan by clicking here.

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