Readers Write: (Oct. 23): Downtown Minneapolis, climate change

  • Updated: October 22, 2013 - 7:18 PM

Closing Park and Portland Avenues would be a step toward making Minneapolis a better city.

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PARK AND PORTLAND

New vision needed for downtown Minneapolis

Well-planned cities are much like our homes. We need places to relax, work, sleep, connect to the outside world, gather, mourn, celebrate, and enjoy fresh air and sunlight. Cities do this on a larger scale where living rooms are replaced by parks, kitchens by restaurants, and driveways with streets and sidewalks. Great cities do this on a scale of grandiose.

By refusing to close Park and Portland Avenues in Minneapolis, our elected officials are refusing us, as a metropolitan family, the opportunity to have a space in which we can come together as a diverse and growing population in one seamless setting, devoid of automobile traffic. This failure to create a great downtown park, which Minneapolis lacks, will be a lasting decision and threatens the very success of the park (“Plan to close Park and Portland Avenues cools off,” Oct. 19).

Cities across the country are building great downtown parks — cities we do not even consider as our “competition,” like Detroit, Oklahoma City and Houston. Let’s move our city into the 21st century and stop planning solely for cars.

ERIC WEISS, Minneapolis

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There is a potential compromise that avoids the expense of tunnels but provides continuity to the park: shallow trenches. The model is the four crosstown streets that pass through Central Park in Manhattan.

Such trenches probably couldn’t go all the way across the Minneapolis space, because the streets would have to be back at grade by 5th Street to accommodate light rail, but most of the way would be good enough. Low, broad bridges would preserve a sense of continuity.

FRANK RHAME, Minneapolis

CLIMATE CHANGE

Boreal forest is fine, but warming debate rages

The Oct. 20 Letter of the Day (“The thermostat wars, fraught with peril”) stated that “the boreal forest, a significant carbon sink, is decimated, and the extraction process [for tar sands oil] generates 17 times more greenhouse gases than traditional petroleum.”

Actually, the province of Alberta has 147,000 square miles of boreal forest. A total area of 1,850 square miles is set aside for tar sands surface mining. About 370 square miles have so far been disturbed. Producers are required to restore disturbed land and make deposits to a fund guaranteeing restoration. That fund now totals $900 million.

Eighty percent of greenhouse gas emissions from oil comes from the end-use burning of the gasoline or diesel made from the crude. Those emissions are the same for conventional and tar sands oil. Therefore, the overall well-to-wheel difference is small. At present, all Canadian oil sands operations account for about one-tenth of 1 percent of world CO2 emissions.

Pipeline builder TransCanada notes that existing tar sands pipelines are operating safely. This includes the Alberta Clipper pipeline, which brings tar sands oil from Alberta to northern Minnesota. The Alberta Clipper is a 1,000-mile pipeline that provides service between Alberta and Superior, Wis. A spur pipeline at Clearbrook, Minn., brings 300,000 barrels per day safely to our Pine Bend, Minn., refinery, the source of most of Minnesota’s gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.

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