Bridge detours hard on neighborhood

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2007 - 10:58 PM

Beset by spillover I-35W traffic, nearby residents and businesses are starting to resent projects to speed traffic.

Increased demand on local streets in Minneapolis is igniting resistance to traffic changes intended to help commuters blocked by the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.

The Beltrami neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis plans a news conference today to oppose state-proposed temporary freeway ramps serving East Hennepin Avenue.

"We can hardly turn onto Hennepin the way it exists," said Dan DuHamel, a neighborhood leader.

Meanwhile, businesses along Central Avenue near the Mississippi River turned a cold shoulder to a proposal to strip parking from four blocks so traffic could move faster.

"You're guaranteeing you're hurting these businesses," Boris Kaganovich told area Council Member Diane Hofstede at a Monday meeting she organized to discuss the Central proposal.

Hofstede said she understands the frustration. She said that neighbors knew that the loss of the 35W crossing meant that they'd see more traffic on local streets. But that traffic, especially trucks, has a cumulative impact, she said.

"The community has worked very hard," she said. "They have brought in new homes and new businesses and new hope to the community. They're very concerned that people will be moving through without recognizing that they're traveling through a community."

The proposed temporary freeway ramps are intended to remove some congestion at nearby ramps, said Tom O'Keefe, west area manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Neighbors say they're concerned about the impact of the projected 10,000 daily ramp users on their streets.

But O'Keefe said some of those drivers already are coming through the area, just using different ramps.

Some streets already have substantial jumps in traffic. For example, Central Avenue traffic has increased from around 20,000 vehicles daily to at least 27,000 since the collapse. Removing parking might add 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles daily, said Don Sobania, a traffic engineer who has been the city's troubleshooter for 35W-induced traffic disruptions.

The city proposed four through lanes on Central, with left turns made in a center lane created by removing 36 parking spaces.

Sobiana said drivers appear to be discovering NE. Broadway as an alternate route, causing congestion between Interstate Hwy. 94 and Central.

Help may be coming. The city is waiting to see if the federal government will finance a traffic signal at 6th and University Avenue NE., to help those who heeded advice to walk or bike to work across the Stone Arch Bridge.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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