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Would Gateway transit boost your health?

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Washington County is jumping at the chance to get additional grants to tie public health initiatives to Gateway Corridor transit planning.

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County officials continue work on the Health Impact Assessment (HIA), which is required by state law every five years, to improve the health of the community.

The assessment identifies obesity, chronic disease and behavioral health as top priorities, while also pointing at countywide factors that affect the health of people and the environment, including public infrastructure, living and working conditions and social, economic and political factors.

A presentation to Washington County Board on May 13 relates automobile dependency to poor air quality and disconnected land-use patterns to physical inactivity.

The Gateway Corridor project is poised to receive funding through the HIA, planner Stephanie Souter said.

Similar projects around the state including the Central Corridor in Hennepin County and the Bottineau Transitway have either completed HIAs or are currently working on them, she said.

The Bottineau project was finished last year and studied land use for underserved populations, implementing physical activity and healthy food access.

The Gateway HIA grant would look into station locations and tie the work of the Environmental Impact Statement currently under way with public health studies.

The majority of the grant would go to a consultant who would work through the summer and early fall to identify those areas as they relate to the Gateway Corridor.

“This really would help us tailor that,” Washington County planner Lyssa Leitner said of specific station locations.

Commissioner Lisa Weik, who serves on the Gateway Corridor Commission and represents Woodbury, said it may be beneficial to study the impact of installing library kiosks at various stations, therefore providing access to exercise and health and wellness books.

“That might be an interesting expansion of this proposal,” she said.

She added that further study would help finalize proposed alignment options –the north side of Interstate 94 or the south – through Woodbury, Oakdale and Lake Elmo.

“This wouldn’t necessarily trump the entire project,” Weik said, but it would help identify walkup station locations, sidewalks and possibly alter the plan a bit.

Commissioners agreed that having Gateway Corridor in the HIA process could only help it move forward with federal and state funding.

“The HIA may give us the edge we need to move forward,” Commissioner Fran Miron said.

The $90,000 grant proposal will focus on the health impacts of station area locations including equitable access to education, recreation, food, housing and employment and economic development potential.

“If the day comes and Gateway was approved, this is another portion of why it was approved,” Commissioner Ted Bearth, of Oakdale, said.

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Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir has been a reporter/ photographer with the Woodbury Bulletin since 2011. She covers Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news around the city. Riham holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked for two other Forum Communications newspapers in Central Minnesota. Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.
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