$160 million project would address access problems to commercial corridor, interstate.
One of south Minneapolis' busiest commercial corridors, Lake Street, has a highway problem.
Interstate 35W, which connects the city with the suburbs and everything north to Duluth and south to Laredo, Texas, flies over Lake Street with only limited access. Motorists must travel blocks to get onto the highway or find their way from 35W to Lake Street. Perhaps more importantly, bus riders now climb a flight of exposed stairs and stand in glass shacks beside lanes of whizzing cars to catch their ride to work.
"You've really got to want to use transit to be up there," said Hennepin County Engineer Jim Grube. "Because it really is not good."
Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Metro Transit are teaming up on a still unfunded $160 million project they hope will fix these problems. Residents will have their second opportunity to weigh in on the plan at a hearing May 1.
The solution will likely involve building a massive bus station in the middle of the highway, speeding up the bus routes between downtown and the suburbs. The project will also add new ramps between Lake Street and I-35W in both directions.
Finally, planners want to connect the new transit hub with the Midtown Greenway, a popular thoroughfare for bicyclists.
Peter Wagenius, Mayor R.T. Rybak's policy aide, said creating faster bus routes along 35W will be one major benefit of the project. More people ride buses on 35W than ride the Hiawatha light rail, he said.
"When people see that transit speeding by them in the fast lane, then they [will] think to themselves, 'Hey maybe I should get on board,'" Wagenius said.
Buses south of 46th Street now travel in a semi-dedicated lane, but are frequently slowed by congestion and lane changes while traveling to and from downtown.
Planning for the project is expected to be complete in mid- to late-2013, but construction kickoff will depend on when funding falls into place. Wagenius said it will be funded largely with federal and state dollars.
The open house will be at 5 p.m. on May 1 at the Whittier Recreation Center at 425 W. 26th St.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732