I know that a lot of people support the sentiments expressed by Sam Rockwell in his July 30 commentary “For city’s sake, Minneapolis should do bottleneck right.” However, one correction. Rockwell refers to the upcoming Hennepin-Lyndale open house as a time when preliminary concepts for the road reconstruction project will be presented. This suggests that the project is in an early stage of planning. In fact, this will be the second of two open houses, and the design process is nearing the beginning of the final construction documentation phase.
The options that will be presented at Monday's open house (6:30 p.m. at the Walker Art Center’s Skyline Room) will be much further developed than at the first one. Public comments will contribute to a soon-to-be-made decision by the city on the final design concept. As part of the federal funding, the city has committed to begin reconstruction next summer. Calls to delay the project are unrealistic and unnecessary.
The large turnout and extensive comments at the first open house in May demonstrated an overwhelming desire by the public to improve the corridor as a civic pedestrian space. I believe that the city is working in earnest to respond. A task force led by the Lowry Hill and Loring Park neighborhoods has been meeting for several months. The group includes representatives from all of the corridor’s major institutions, area residents and citywide civic groups. It has been working diligently with the city in pursuit of the best design possible.
Because the Hennepin-Lyndale corridor is a place of multiple jurisdictions, it will take more than one grand project to realize the full potential. All of the big visionary ideas for the corridor noted by Rockwell involve land controlled by the state through the Department of Transportation. These areas present some wonderful opportunities for next steps after the completion of the current, city-based project.
The reconstruction that will happen next year has its most profound impact on the heart of the corridor, the place where Lowry Hill, the Walker Art Center, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church and Loring Park all come together. The biggest need at this location is for more space for pedestrians, landscaping and public art. This is where we have a great opportunity.
It is mistaken to believe that better traffic flow is always aided by more, and wider, drive lanes. The science of traffic engineering will show otherwise. It appears to the task force, and I believe to the city, that this corridor could stand to go on a diet, that it is possible to improve traffic flow by more efficiently using the space of traffic lanes.
The corridor will always be a high-traffic “bottleneck,” but we have the opportunity to gain back valuable space that can be dedicated to pedestrians and greenery.
I hope members of the public turn out at Monday's open house to share their visions and voice their concerns. I hope they will see a story about the positive difference citizens can make. This is an important place. Rockwell is right on in asking that we do it right.
John Van Heel is co-facilitator and a member of the Hennepin-Lyndale Task Force.