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Wendy Reuer, Published March 04 2012

Dilworth focusses on improving city walkability

DILWORTH – Residents here say the town’s walkability could use some improvement.

Such improvements might include widening older sidewalks, better maintaining city sidewalks and finding more accessible, safer walking paths across the city’s main thoroughfare.

Mayor Chad Olson said one day he would like to see clear pedestrian routes that stretch from the east end of Dilworth to Moorhead, as well as from the north to south sides of town.

“If you take a very pragmatic approach, you can improve how traffic flows through that area,” Olson said.

Olson said his plan may take some creative solutions, because unlike cities divided by a Main Avenue, Dilworth’s downtown and business hub is divided by U.S. Highway 10, a major route to Minnesota’s lakes country.

“Anytime you’re combining pedestrian traffic and a major trunk highway like Highway 10, it possesses a unique set of challenges,” Olson said.

Dilworth Park Board member Cheryl Stetz said crossing Highway 10 certainly becomes an issue for southside residents looking to walk to a day at the park. Seven of the city’s 11 parks are north of Highway 10, and a popular Dairy Queen is on the south side of Highway 10.

“So, the challenge is how we get people across Highway 10. People don’t want to walk with their kids on a busy highway,” Stetz said.

Olson said there are wide sidewalks in the downtown area on both sides of the highway, and pedestrians should cross at the signal light for safety.

This summer, a Minnesota Department of Transportation project will include a signal light and a pedestrian crossing upgrade in Moorhead, but no projects are scheduled for Highway 10 in Dilworth, said MnDOT spokesperson Dana Hanson.

Olson said one solution Dilworth has adopted to enhance pedestrian traffic is a complete streets policy. The policy calls for engineering to consider all modes of traffic – such as pedestrian or bicycle – when a new road is built or reconstructed.

To highlight what Dilworth already has to offer, the city will host a Streets Alive event for the first time in July, Stetz said.

The annual Streets Alive events, held in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, close roads to all automobiles, allowing only human-powered transportation such as walking, running and biking for an evening or afternoon.

“Our whole goal is to show this is a metro area, and Dilworth is a part of it; we’re not separate from Fargo-Moorhead,” Stetz said. “We feel it will help entice people to get out and explore (Dilworth).”

“Walkability,” or the number of pedestrian trails and sidewalks, was a reoccurring topic residents said they would like to see improved at a community forum held last month.

Wish lists of amenities residents would like to see in Dilworth also included:

Olson said he plans to take the results of the community forum to the park board at its meeting on March 14 in hopes some of the ideas will come to fruition.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530