Making one of Minneapolis’ trickiest intersections easier for walkers to navigate could involve fixes ranging from elevated crosswalks to rebuilding curbs and redirecting traffic.
That was the menu of options presented recently by engineers tasked with finding a way to reconfigure Lake Street at Hiawatha Avenue following a neighborhood push to “Humanize Hi-Lake.” Thousands of walkers a day maneuver four zigzagging Lake Street crosswalks beneath the Hiawatha Avenue bridge where cars zip along curving ramps to and from the highway.
And the intersection is expected to get busier with several nearby developments under construction, including a new apartment building and Hennepin County service center.
The study commissioned by the city and Hennepin County analyzed conditions at the intersection and possible improvements large and small, though none are currently funded or planned for construction.
Nearly 2,400 people a day walk through the area to reach Target, Cub Foods and other destinations, the study found. The area sees about 3,900 bus and train boardings per day, and about 33,800 cars.
City and county staff outlined cheap and expensive fixes for Hi-Lake at a Corcoran Neighborhood Organization meeting Thursday.
Among the costlier options, staff found that a so-called “tight diamond” could provide substantial walking and bicycling benefits with minimal impediment to vehicles. It would narrow portions of the Hiawatha vehicle ramps, replace gradual curved turns with tighter corners, and direct traffic from two signals on either side of the Hiawatha bridge. The project would cost about $4 million.
“Those things aren’t going to happen real fast, probably,” said Bob Byers, a county engineer. “You have to go to some special sources and see if you can garner that level of funding.”
Midrange changes would involve more limited ramp narrowing, as well as nixing some turn-only lanes on Lake Street to allow for wider sidewalks — costing about $660,000. Those turn-only lanes also appear to be slowing Lake Street buses, since bus drivers must merge back into traffic.
“In this busy world now that we live in, with everyone so frustrated and the way drivers are driving, I think bus drivers are finding it harder and harder to merge back in,” Byers said.
Raised crosswalks that act as mini-speed bumps were highlighted as one of the most simple fixes likely to slow vehicle traffic. “It lowers that speed quite a bit. It improves the visibility of the crosswalk as well,” Byers said.
See the full Hi-Lake study at tinyurl.com/HiLakeStudy.