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Your Voice is Needed for a Safer Olive Street!

Updated: 7 days ago

Dear Community Members,

Washington County is collecting comments for the Olive Street reconstruction project until July 23. I encourage all of you to participate by providing your feedback online or attending one of the public meetings. I want to share my thoughts and background on this project to unify our voices and avoid contradictions. These comments are focused on the principles of our Healthy/Connected Community pillar in our Mission/Vision.

First and foremost, it's crucial to thank the County for offering this opportunity to comment. The County continuously improves its public outreach methods, and we should applaud their efforts.

Project Scope

This project covers the stretch of Olive Street (County Rd 5) from Owens West to Deerpath, which is segment 4 of the overall project updating County Rd 5 through town. The public right-of-way narrows significantly on the west end, from Deerpath to Grove, potentially requiring the purchase of additional property. This adds complications, as you might imagine.

Map of Olive st w

Addressing Community Concerns

I anticipate pushback from affected property owners, especially if sidewalks or boulevards are proposed that widen the right-of-way. Some might argue, “Why do we need sidewalks? No one walks along this road.” This is why we need to represent the voice of the broader community, current and future, who would like to walk safely to church, school, or the store. We must reinforce the County’s goal “to add pedestrian accommodations.”

Focus on Pedestrian Experience

This stretch of Olive is not designated as a Bike Route in the City Trail Plan, so I’m focusing on the pedestrian experience. The survey asks for priorities in street design elements, which can be misleading, but here’s my rationale:

  1. Pedestrian Safety and Comfort: We need to consider the pedestrian experience and prioritize safety and comfort. Safety factors include traffic speed and protection between pedestrians and traffic. The County has deflected conversations about speed, so I will address this in the comment section. Protection can be provided by parked cars or street trees. Since street trees offer benefits like oxygen production, carbon capture, stormwater minimization, shade, wildlife habitat, and traffic calming, they are my top priority. The County does not budget for street trees but does mention boulevard space, which I have listed as the top priority to ensure space for street trees.

  2. Sidewalks: Next priorities are sidewalks on both sides of the street or, if space is limited, at least one side.

  3. Parking: Parking on one or both sides of the street follows.

  4. Property Impacts: I have listed “impacts to properties” last, focusing on the common good of the design and its function.

The next series of questions asks us to prioritize individual elements over another. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Boulevard Space: Given the benefits of street trees and pedestrian safety, I chose boulevard space. Without a clear definition of "narrow," I assume the City's minimum of 5 feet.

  2. Limited Parking: Since Olive Street is not frequently parked, providing parking is a low priority. Hence, I chose limited parking with fewer property impacts.

  3. Sidewalks: With no definition of "narrow" (assuming 5' min.), I prefer sidewalks on both sides.

  4. Street Trees: The south side of the street, without power poles and lines, is best for street trees, boulevards, and sidewalks.

While the County mentions that speed limits are set by the State, their design influences driving speeds more than posted limits. This is a chance to request a 25 mph speed limit.

For more on pedestrian design and sustainability, check out Jeff Speck’s "Walkable City" and "Walkable City Rules," and his TED talks or YouTube videos.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me at if you have any questions or concerns.

Sustainably yours,

Roger Tomten


Why Your Feedback Matters

At Sustainable Stillwater MN, we believe this project should prioritize the safety and accessibility of pedestrians and cyclists. Olive Street currently poses significant risks due to excessive vehicle speeds and a lack of safe pathways for non-motorized traffic. Your input on crucial elements like bike lanes, safe pedestrian crossings, and traffic calming measures will help shape the final design, ensuring it supports a vibrant, safe, and accessible community.

We strongly encourage you to participate in this process by:

  • Adding Your Public Comments: Advocate for safer bike lanes, better pedestrian crossings, and effective traffic calming measures like narrower traffic lanes.

  • Taking the Survey: Explore More

Join us in making County Highway 5 a safer and more enjoyable place for everyone. Your voice can make a difference—take the survey and add your comments before July 23rd, 2024!

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