Street Improvement Program


Streets, the Community's Priority

You spoke, we listened. In the 2015 National Citizens Survey, 91% of the Duluth residents surveyed lacked confidence in our streets; 71% felt the same about sidewalks. Time and again, residents have told us that streets and potholes are a priority. We agree. We can, and must, do better. 

Duluth streets and sidewalks serve millions of people per year. 

Duluth is home to 86,293 residents, but we're also an important regional economic center. More than 35,000 people commute daily into Duluth for work, education or medical services, and we welcome 6.7 million annual visitors to Duluth for events, conventions and vacations. Currently, our streets funding is paid for entirely by residents through property tax levies. This model is not sustainable, does not generate enough revenue, and isn't meeting the community's needs. Residents, guests, and commuters: we all share a commitment to a strong Duluth. We can all be a part of a streets solution. 


 "...91% of the Duluth residents surveyed lacked confidence in our streets..."


Investment Strategies

Safe, reliable streets and sidewalks, it’s what the community expects and values. The basic pavement maintenance Duluth has been undertaking only provides temporary fixes. 

We practice effective preservation strategies to prolong street conditions using crack sealing, seal coats, and overlays.

However, we know that over 55% of our streets are listed in critical condition. We need to look at a long term reliable street program.


Street Preservation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Road conditions change over time with use, due to varying weather conditions, geological layers, and time. Duluth has many challenges given our hilly and rock-laden topography coupled with winter conditions can hasten the age of our streets.

New Street

The City employs three (3) primary strategies:

  • Preservation: crack filling, joint sealing, spot curb replacement, seal coat, fog seal, and patching. Decades of research has shown that investment of dollars for preservation can result in a 6:1 return on investment.
  • Rehabilitation: resurfacing of the street section including curb and gutter construction or replacement.
  • Reconstruction: the complete removal and replacement of the entire street section, including major repairs to public utilities buried under the streets. Reconstruction strategies are significantly more expensive than the other strategies, but are necessary to ensure the integrity of our infrastructure.

The effectiveness of Public Works’ strategies for improved streets is greatly diminished if the funding is not adequate. Ideally the City should be investing $25 million dollars per year in street maintenance strategies. The current annual investment in Duluth streets is about $1.5 million dollars. Over the past decade, funding has been sporadic and critically reduced.  

  • The City has 450 miles of roads and about 400 miles of sidewalk to maintain.
  • Fully improved streets require a significant investment of $446 million.

Funding History & Future Needs

The City of Duluth instituted a Street Improvement Program (SIP) in 1994 that was funded by bonding and debt service paid from: Community Investment Trust income, new growth in property taxes, and assessments.

In 2008/2009, the SIP was significantly modified to a Pay-as-you-go plan with no new bonding for street projects. A street fee was implemented in 2015 and garners $2.8 million some of which was used for debt reduction and the rest put into street projects. In 2017, the that fee was converted to a property tax.    

The Pavement Condition Index (PCI) is an industry rating used to determine pavement conditions on a scale of 1-100, 1 being the worst and 100 being the best. The average rating for Duluth is unacceptable at 36; affecting 55% of the total miles of roads we maintain. The industry standards indicate that a healthy road system achieves a rating of 70. The current state of our streets is unacceptable. View the 2017 Street Improvement Program plan HERE.   

*6% of Duluth roads are gravel and not rated

Funding Options

There are only a limited number of options available for the City to fund the existing debt and the anticipated future street improvement needs. Those options include an increase in property taxes for rehabilitation and reconstruction projects and a new proposal.

Mayor Emily Larson and City staff designated the Street Improvement Program (SIP) & are proposing a 1/2% transportation sales tax referendum that, if approved by the legislature, could garner approximately $7 million to be designated for the Street Improvement Program, thus tripling our current investment to $10 million. The current funding level only allows us to reconstruct less than 2 miles of roads each year. This proposal was presented to the City Council, is being presented at public meetings and various stakeholder groups with a referendum listed on the November 7 ballot before seeking legislative approval.     


Next Steps

  1. Monday, August 14, 2017:  The Mayor’s proposed 2018 levy & budget was presented to Council.
  2. Public Meetings: Listed Below
  3. November 7, 2017 – The public voted with 76% in support of the proposal
  4. City seeks legislative approval in 2018 & 2019

The public had opportunities to hear from Mayor Larson and city staff at these meetings in 2017:

  • Tuesday September 5 - Grant Recreation Community Center, E 9th Ave & E 11th St. 6:30-8 PM
  • Wednesday, September 20 – Morgan Park Community Center, 1242 88th Ave West @ 5:30 -7 PM
  • Monday, October 16, Lakeside-Lester Park Community Center, 106 N 54th Ave East @ 6:30-8 PM
  • Tuesday, October 24, Irving Community Club, 5830 Grand Ave  @ 6:00 PM
  • Thursday, October 26 – Duluth Heights Community Center, 33 West Mulberry St.  @ 5:30-7 PM

Questions?  Call (218) 730-5000


City of Duluth, 411 West First Street, Duluth, Minnesota 55802
©2020 City of Duluth, Minnesota. All Rights Reserved | Disclaimers | Contact the City | Sitemap
Follow the City of Duluth City Facebook Page City's Twitter Feed City Youtube Channel