The Superior City Council approved an agreement that will take a new approach to the way the city looks at transportation.

The council on Tuesday, Oct. 18, entered into a three-party agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Toole Design Group to secure consultant services for development of the city's Active Transportation Plan. The plan will serve as a blueprint for a comprehensive bike and pedestrian network linking destinations in the city while improving public safety and promoting an active lifestyle.

"It's a unique contract because we got a state grant," Mayor Jim Paine said. "We get to make a recommendation for what company we get to go with and they negotiate the price."

Paine said Toole Design Group is hailed as the best of the best among communities with active transportation systems.

Founded in 2003 in Massachusetts, the firm has 16 offices across the United States and Canada, specializes in design of streets and communities where people of all ages and abilities can enjoy walking, biking and access to transit.

"We're going to have a comprehensive plan that not only details how people can move around using active transportation - walking, biking, skateboarding, I guess - namely bike and ped paths throughout the city," Paine said. "Because it will be a comprehensive plan it will affect all of our future transportation design. Bicycles, but especially pedestrians, will be prioritized for the first time in the city's planning."

The way the city's transportation is designed now, Paine said a street is put in and a sidewalk is added as an afterthought, leaving pedestrians to walk adjacent to moving cars.

"A lot of active transportation plans get away from that," Paine said. "They make completely different routes. Superior kind of has that with the Osaugie Trail along Highway 2, but we don't have it anywhere else."

Paine said the planning process can take up to a year or so, and will involve public input when the planning process gets underway.

"It will have some design elements to it, but it's mostly a plan with statements of policy, values and some actual design recommendations," Paine said. "That process will take about a year. Any major plan like this requires quite a bit of work from some city officials, but also you have to get the public involved. Writing it is a pretty involved process."

Councilor Jenny Van Sickle said the plan will represent a major and important policy shift for the city in transportation.

Implementing the plan will begin with working on some things right away but all future transportation plans will be influenced by the plan, likely for decades, Paine said. He said once the plan is developed, his plan to is to begin working on changes to existing transportation plans to reflect the values of the Active Transportation Plan.

Paine said the Active Transportation Plan will have a broader reach than the Safe Routes to School program for which the city receives federal funding to make pathways to school safer.

"We already do Safe Routes to School," Paine said. "This is safe routes to everywhere else. This is a Safe Routes to School program for the whole city."