Q: Every time I drive up Mulberry Street and plan a right turn at Fifth Street, I am surprised by the bumped-out sidewalk suddenly appearing above the horizon. EEK! It cannot be seen before you are on it, due to the angle of the hill. Shouldn’t yellow paint, or reflector strips, or some warning be on that curb for unsuspecting drivers? It would seem cheaper than car repairs.
A: That’s not a traditional bump-out, where the curb is extended into the street to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians. Instead, the concrete is extended to create a parallel parking area for the adjoining property, which was once Fitzgerald Middle School and is now a Head Start location.
So anybody who would strike the extended curb/sidewalk would actually be driving in the parking area, said Michael McCarty, Mankato’s assistant city engineer.
“In a way, it would be outside the driving lane,” McCarty said, noting the street is about 36 feet wide, providing plenty of space for drivers in the through lanes. “... We would not anticipate traffic operating in that area.”
But outside of Head Start hours, it’s often the case that no vehicles are in the parking area, and drivers looking to turn on Fifth Street may drift to the right in anticipation of the turn. Also, there’s no center stripe on Mulberry to provide a clear idea to drivers precisely where the driving lanes are.
“Mulberry is a relatively low-volume road, so it doesn’t get striped,” he said.
The city doesn’t have a habit of painting curbs, just because there are higher priorities for city personnel. But paint wouldn’t traditionally be used to tell drivers to look out for the curb. Instead, yellow paint would typically denote a no-parking area, blue would designate a handicapped parking spot, and red would prohibit parking in a fire zone.
In any case, an attempt to warn drivers about the curb extending onto Mulberry Street would need to be done by the folks at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. It was the church that requested the parallel parking area, and the church is responsible for maintaining it, including any paint or reflectors on the curb.
Q: The newer residential streets are full of curves, not old-fashioned straight blocks. How do they “design” these new curves? Also, they have some pretty crazy names for those streets. How are those names chosen?
A: Generally, the private developers behind a new residential subdivision propose the locations of the streets — looking to maximize the number of buildable lots or make the neighborhood more interesting with the curvy, un-gridlike layout.
That doesn’t mean they have free rein, though.
“All our streets are designed to a minimal width,” McCarty said. “They’re also designed to a 30 mph speed limit.”
That means making sure sight lines, intersections and vertical changes are safe and meet design standards.
Also, the city has put an end to the cul-de-sac craze of previous decades, which are a pain for snowplow drivers. Cul-de-sacs are now allowed only in extremely small or oddly shaped parcels where there is no real alternative, said Community Development Director Paul Vogel.
As for street names, developers make suggestions but city officials have the final say, following a street-naming policy passed in 2017.
The policy calls for commonality in street names that can help guide people to a particular neighborhood. For instance, gemstones are used on streets near Hoffman Road (Amber Court, Jade Lane and Diamond Creek Road, for example) and golf courses or links-related terms are prevalent in residential areas that developed near the Mankato Golf Club (St. Andrews Drive, Torrey Pines Drive and Bunker Court). Street signs on Mankato’s southeast side went to the birds (Tanager Road, Cardinal Drive and Gull Path) — even birds Ask Us Guy has never heard of (Tattler Lane and Fly Catcher Trail).
“We try to stay within the general theme that is established in an area or continue a street name if it’s an extension of the street,” Vogel said.
The six-page street-naming policy aims, in part, to “show a positive and progressive image to current residents, prospective residents, and developers,” according to its introductory paragraphs. The policy has some obvious standards, such as not allowing the same name to be used more than once in different parts of Mankato and avoiding difficult-to-spell names. (For reasons Ask Us Guy does not know, “Weimaraner” is listed in the policy as an example of a street name that shouldn’t be used.)
Names more than 16 characters long are also discouraged, as are proper names and words that have homonyms. And it emphasizes the goal of avoiding mistakes made in the past, such as when one stretch of street changes names multiple times. The example mentioned in the policy is Warren Street becoming Highland Avenue before becoming Cedar Street before returning to Warren Street.
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