Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Big Changes Downtown

The Minneapolis Transportation and Public Works Committee has approved the conversion of both Hennepin and 1st Ave. from one-way to two-way traffic.

The stated purpose was to improve the flow of traffic and to increase safety.

Safety was the primary driver as the project team evaluated all elements for the project. Bicycle
operations and bike lane placement became a main focus for safety. It also generated the most
comments through the public engagement process. The safety issues described here led to the
staff recommendation with respect to bike lane placement:
• Bike lanes located along the center of Hennepin Ave combined with the introduction of
southbound traffic created a significant safety concern. Conflicts between left turning
vehicles and bicycles made up 84% of the recorded crashes over the last 4 years. The
introduction of southbound traffic would result in an increase of this type of crash if a
center running bike lane was incorporated.
• Dedicated bike lanes along the curb lines of Hennepin Ave would result in conflicts with
the extensive curbside activity on Hennepin Ave including busses.

Traffic operations, although secondary to safety, was an important factor. Safety is directly
linked to traffic operations; congestion and delay create safety risks. The traffic analysis led to the
following conclusions:
• Hennepin Avenue requires left turn lanes. Without left turn lanes vehicle delay would
more than double from what is currently observed.
• A three lane configuration (2 – thru lanes and 1-center left turn lane) would result in 17 of
26 intersections operating at a failed level of service in the PM peak period.

You can view the complete layout HERE

As someone who has lived in a number of major cities, both here and abroad, I'm confused by a movement away from the typical grid of one-way streets that dominate American cities.

A close friend of mine, who attended all the public meetings to discuss this matter says it's clear that Minneapolis is looking to rejuvenate the downtown commercial district and feels that two way traffic on Hennepin (the theater district) and 1st Ave. (the bars and clubs) will help draw suburbanites who are confused by one-way traffic and a lack of street parking on Hennepin Ave.

I say, let's do what London did, and kick all the cars out, and charge exorbitant fees to bring a vehicle into the downtown area.

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