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70% of state residents able to access high-speed Internet

We’re still not quite as well wired as the South Koreans … But Dave Peters of MPR reports: “Nearly 70 percent of Minnesota households now have available the kind of  high-speed Internet access that the state says they should. The latest semi-annual report from Connect Minnesota today said that 69.2 percent of households have access to download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second and upload speeds of six megabits per second. That’s up from 61.6 percent a half year ago and represents a faster rise in those numbers than the state has experienced in recent measurements. Minnesota  lawmakers several years ago approved a goal to make these speeds available to all Minnesotans by 2015. … A number of projects around the state, including some federally financed stimulus projects, have gradually been expanding the area served by high-speed fiber.”

The peril to Dinkytown … as Matt Hawbaker of Save Dinkytown says in Strib a commentary is as follows: “The Opus Development Company, part of the Rauenhorst Trusts, wants to tear down The Podium, The Book House, House of Hanson and other small businesses in order to build a six-story upscale ‘dormitory-style’ complex affordable to well-off university students. To do so, the developer needs Minneapolis City Council members to approve an arguably illegal ‘spot zoning’ change from ‘C1’ (small-scale neighborhood commercial uses) to ‘C3A’ (higher-density, mixed-use commercial and housing) for a roughly half-block area of Dinkytown.”

At the PiPress, Christopher Snowbeck follows the latest of who’s in and who’s not re: the state’s insurance exchange: “Three health insurance companies say they have decided not to compete in portions of the new Minnesota marketplace, at least for policies that cover 2014. But Minneapolis-based UCare met a late-May deadline to seek approval for exchange products, thereby providing a likely boost in competition for individuals who buy their own health insurance policies. Government officials predict that consumers will benefit from significant competition on the exchange — which in Minnesota will go by the name MNsure — even if a few carriers are opting out. … there are also reputation reasons that health insurers might opt out,[Stephen] Parente [a health policy expert at the University of Minnesota] said. ‘Why be the first one moving on this, given what the risk profiles might be’? he said. ‘Plus, if you’re guessing wrong or you look different, you’re going to be very publicly in the press with very different rates’.” Dang that open-competition thing …

Well, it may drive a few people to the polls … if they don’t forget it’s Election Day. Tom Scheck of MPR writes: “Delegates attending the Independence Party of Minnesota’s state convention in St. Cloud [Saturday] adopted a party platform that calls for the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana. … The plan would put the Independence Party on the forefront of a growing national movement calling for the legalization of marijuana. Voters in Colorado and Washington passed ballot measures in November that allowed for the recreational use of marijuana. No one in the Minnesota Legislature proposed a bill this year that would have legalized marijuana but there is likely to be a push next year to allow it for medicinal purposes.”

The GleanHope you didn’t promise to show the kids the Hawaiian monk seals … Christopher Magan of the PiPress reports: “Lawmakers’ unwillingness this session to pass a $800 million bonding bill for public works projects across the state put on hold plans to complete renovations to the million-gallon tank that would house the seals in Discovery Bay. The zoo needs another $1 million to finish renovations of the tank before the endangered seals that officials hope to acquire can move in. Yet another $2 million is needed for other updates to Discovery Bay. The $15 million that zoo leaders requested from lawmakers in state bonding dollars was left out of the smaller $156 million measure that won approval in the final hours of the 2013 session. Plans to remodel the zoo’s snow monkey exhibit also are on hold.”

An AP story by Steve Peoples looks at the consequences of the Catholic Church’s robust activism against gay rights: “As American attitudes rapidly shifted in favor of legalized same-sex marriage in recent months, the archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, likened same-sex marriage to male breastfeeding and denounced Rhode Island’s vote as violating ‘the very design of nature.’ In Minnesota, Catholic leaders spent nearly $1 million last year to support a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage. The year before, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis produced and distributed 400,000 copies of a DVD in which Archbishop John C. Nienstedt called same-sex marriage, at best, ‘an untested social experiment.’  Thousands of Minnesota Catholics returned the DVDs in protest. Last month, the state Legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage, making Minnesota the 12th state to do so.”

Do anything that helps them figure it out … Tim Harlow of the Strib says: “My April column on the state’s campaign to get drivers to use the zipper merge technique at road construction sites generated quite a bit of buzz. … Spokesman Ken Johnson said MnDOT is looking at ways to modify its supply of signs to better instruct drivers when they should use the zipper merge. One idea is adding the word ‘ahead’ to signs announcing that the right or left lane is closed so drivers know they don’t have to merge immediately. ‘Zipper merge is a term we want to throw in there somewhere,’ he said. ‘We are talking with our districts to make sure we are uniform statewide’.” I suppose a line that read, “Hey, Doofus …,” wouldn’t get past the sign committee.

The park around the Vikings’ billion-dollar football palace might actually be a nice amenity … Richard Meryhew of the Strib writes: “A schematic design submitted to the city of Minneapolis late last week by stadium architects calls for developing nearly 8 acres of park space immediately around the building that features grass, trees and wide walkways that will make it easy for walkers, runners and bikers to navigate around more than 1.6 million square feet of glass, metal and steel. The intention, designers say, is to soften the impact of a massive building — nearly twice the size of the Metrodome — on the downtown skyline and make the area surrounding it more inviting to fans, neighbors and visitors, not only on game days but throughout the year. … Nearly 300 trees — likely a mix of elms, maples, lindens and other varieties native to Minnesota — will frame the plaza and building facade. Two walkways or paths — an outside loop near bordering streets and an inside loop that wraps tightly around the stadium — will circle the site, along with shard-like-shaped sections of park distinguished by a mix of perennials and native, ornamental and turf grasses.”

At Mediaite, Evan McMurry covers reflections on Our Favorite Congresswoman by Karl Rove and Obama campaign guru David Plouffe: “On This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Karl Rove greeted Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann’s retirement as an opportunity to fill both her congressional seat and her committee presence with a more effective Republican. ‘It will be an opening for the Tea Party,’ Rove said. ‘Michele Bachmann was the chairman of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, and in that positon did nothing. Now the position is open, someone next year will accept the chairmanship of it, and they may do something with it.’ … Stephanopoulos asked former Obama advisor David Plouffe if Democrats would miss Bachmann. ‘Terribly,’ Plouffe said. ‘It’s fun having her and the Sarah Palins of the world on the scene, because they sort of define this modern Republican party. Now you’ve got others to replace her. Now you’ve got Ted Cruz and others to fill the bill.’ ” That Cruz guy is money in the bank for Democrats.

Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/03/2013 - 08:44 am.

    Zippers don’t work.. duh.

    Zipper stop traffic and create traffic jams. If zippers actually worked, that wouldn’t happen. Duh. Instead of complaining about the way drivers use or misuse zippers MNDOT engineers should deploy some common sense. Waiting till the last two feet and final moment to merge traffic into a bottleneck is obviously a bad idea. We have two zippers on 394, and they both fail to keep traffic moving. One is the official zipper at 394 and 100 where the physically separated sane lane begins, and the other is at the E-94 exit from 394 just before getting into downtown. At both locations traffic is funneled into fewer lanes at the last minute. It both cases this stops traffic, I mean stops traffic, you’re wheels stop turning, even in moderately heavy traffic. Every day at around 4:00 Eastbound traffic on 394 starting at Louisiana Ave is brought to a halt by the 1st zipper, and kept that way by the second zipper. It sometimes take me longer to get from Louisiana Ave. to the Lowery tunnel than it takes me to get from the tunnel to Downtown St. Paul.

    The whole thing is the result of two major engineering fails. First, traffic is funneled from three lanes to two and this was based on the bogus assumption that carpoolers and paying customers would comprise one third of the traffic in any given direction despite the fact that the sane lane only moves in one direction at a time. Second, the bottleneck is compressed into an irresolvable space by the existence of a lane that is not available to all traffic i.e. the HOV lane.

    MNDOT built a bottle neck and now they want to blames drivers for getting stuck in it… because they don’t “zipper” properly? Look, even IF people did the zipper they way MNDOT wants them to, the traffic would still stop there because that’s how human beings drive cars. The bottleneck is AT the zipper merge, not BEFORE you get to the zipper merge. It’s the cars merging at the last minute that stop the traffic, not the cars that merge a few blocks back, you can see this any day of the day week if you’d like.

    I’m not an engineer, beyond have more lanes and merging people traffic back where there’s more space I don’t know what you could do. But if I didn’t know better I would think that that 394 is deliberately designed to stop traffic at HWY 100 and the 94E exit. So don’t blame the drivers, blame the design.

    • Submitted by John Eidel on 06/03/2013 - 09:56 am.

      Zippers

      To me, the zipper merge SHOULD work, but I don’t think that it ever will. It seems that it is in the very nature of MN drivers to A.) stay no less than 5 feet from the back bumper of the car in front of them, and B.) fight with every inch of space their car provides to block cars merging into their lane ahead of them. After all, I waited in the right lane for 10 minutes and this guy thinks he can zip ahead of me without paying his dues? Psah!

      What MAY help, in my opinion, would be signage instructing drivers in the lane that will be merged into to lengthen the space between them and the driver in front of them to 2 or 3 car lengths. This should be done well before the area where merging will actually take place. Coupled with signage in the lane that is ending indicating that they should not merge immediately, the zipper could work.

    • Submitted by ALAN BELISLE on 06/03/2013 - 10:02 am.

      Failed Zippers

      I absolutely agree that the “zipper merge” is yet another failed idea that some whiz kid in MNDOT got to work in a computer simulation. Said kid must ride a bicycle to work because in real life traffic, that failure is utterly apparent. When the left lane goes away, some people will try to be polite and merge early and painlessly. Other people will haul ass down the left lane, passing as many cars as possible to “get ahead” of them before they jam into right lane, causing that lane to screech to a halt and form the bottle neck. Human nature.

      To my mind, the only way a zipper merge would work would be if BOTH lanes had to merge into the middle. Then neither lane would have the “I got here first” or “I can get by all those guys” attitude. Of course, that would still be a bottle neck and still stop traffic dead when the flow is even moderate.

      How did MNDOT ever get so disconnected from reality? Just look at engineering fiascos like the 394/100 mess. Or the new 494/169 interchange’s 3/4 of a cloverleaf with flying ramps and roundabouts. Who designs these things? How do these unelected, unknown, invisible trolls get away with blighting public infrastructure with bad design, despite public outrage?

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/03/2013 - 12:03 pm.

      The zipper merge fails to recognize that when both lanes are operating at near maximum capacity in terms of vehicle quantity and speed of traffic that there is absolutely no way the same quantity and speed will squeeze through the one lane.

      Once you hit the restricted lane, which most often is posted at a lower speed (remember the highway workers and doubled fines?), brake lights come on and there will be a back-up. How could it be otherwise? 70 mph drivers hitting a 55 mph zone–even if there was no flow restriction, there would still be a ripple of stop-and-go traffic at that spot and possible accidents.

      Double the quantity of cars at rush-hour, cut the number of lanes in half in the work zone, and decrease the speed limit in the work-zone–how could you have anything other than a backup?

      The zipper is BS !!!

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 06/03/2013 - 12:35 pm.

        Drivers fail to understand the purpose of the zipper merge

        Of course there will be traffic bottlenecks when two lanes merge into one at the site of construction. The zipper merge doesn’t try to solve that problem, it just tries to mitigate it by squeezing the bottleneck into the smallest number of road miles. If everyone merges “early” that pushes the bottleneck back twice as far as necessary. This prevents cars from entering and leaving the roadway at earlier exits and causes traffic issues that could be avoided on roads that intersect with the road that is under construction.

        At any construction merge you WILL have to slow down and probably stop. That is the nature of closing a lane of traffic. Cars that “speed by” in the open lane are helping to minimize congestion, not increasing it. Think about this the next time you’re stuck on I94 because of construction on I35.

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/03/2013 - 01:31 pm.

          So the only selling point is that the length of the area of congestion is reduced because cars would be evenly packed into two lanes. It doesn’t reduce congestion, doesn’t increase throughput, doesn’t save time.

          From the MNDoT site:

          “Raising awareness for motorists to use the zipper merge in construction zones will help reduce crashes, speeds and congestion.”

          –Sue Groth, MnDOT traffic safety and technology director

          Not sure how reducing speed will help congestion.

          • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 06/03/2013 - 02:42 pm.

            It does reduce congestion

            But that’s congestion in the overall highway system. It does reduce accidents and improve safety, mostly by reducing speed at the point of the merge. Changing lanes in heavy traffic at high speeds is dangerous. Changing lanes at low speed is much safer. It doesn’t really need any more selling points than that. No merging technique is going to help two lanes of cars get through one lane quickly.

            Raising awareness will also reduce road rage from people who think cars in the other lane are “budging” when they’re actually following directions.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/03/2013 - 09:00 am.

    …..Nearly 300 trees — likely a mix of elms, maples, lindens and other varieties native to Minnesota….

    Looking at the architects rendering, what he shows are 15 – 20 foot tall “lollipop” trees in tree grates, hardly the 40 to 100 foot tall trees that grow here. And there is still the 100 yards or so of open, paved plaza–not nice in any season.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/03/2013 - 09:17 am.

    That’s not a park, it’s a plaza. There isn’t enough space there for a park, and no one is going to have lunch under those tightly packed trees, nor are they going to sit on the concrete and have a picnic. If you want to see how people will use a plaza like this just walk down a few blocks to the old Fed Reserve building next to the library. And THAT plaza is actually larger than the one being offered here.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/03/2013 - 09:23 am.

    Actually I think the real story about the Vikings Plaza…

    Is that the Strib describes it as a “park”. Even the Architects describe it as a plaza. Why does the Strib describe it as an “urban park”? Clearly this is PR and branding by the Strib on behalf of the Vikings.

  5. Submitted by Alex Bauman on 06/03/2013 - 12:31 pm.

    Legality of Dinkytown rezoning is NOT arguable

    The author of the Strib piece needs to learn a bit about zoning. There is no question that the rezoning of the House of Hanson parcel is NOT spot zoning. Spot zoning occurs when a parcel is rezoned without guidance from a master plan. Minneapolis approved its master plan just 4 years ago, and it guided this parcel as an Activity Center, for which the appropriate zoning is explicitly C3A.

    There may be other reasons to oppose this rezoning, but legality is not in question, and the fact that this author chooses to wrap his argument in it suggests that he doesn’t really have much basis for opposition.

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