What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Plans would reshape Hennepin-Lyndale bottleneck

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: August 5, 2014 - 1:29 PM

New plans to overhaul the Hennepin-Lyndale bottleneck, historically the most vexing intersection in Minneapolis, would create more room for pedestrians while reconfiguring a number of vehicle lanes.

The most significant change in two proposals -- unveiled at an open house Monday -- is the elimination of one vehicle lane heading downtown. That would allow for the separation of bicycles and pedestrians on a heavily trafficked path (above) near St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral.

Traffic counts show that 50,000 vehicles pass vertically through the intersection every day, in addition to 9,000 bus riders and more than 1,500 walkers and bicyclists.

The $9 million project would make the intersection more hospitable to walkers, who must sometimes maneuver several crosswalks and lights just to cross the street. In addition to new separation from bikes on the eastern edge, the plans would shorten some crossing distances and eliminate vehicular turn lanes that now cut through medians.

“Anything will be an improvement," said Sherman Ford at Monday's meeting.

Officials also envision improvements for drivers (see traffic diagrams below) by reducing weaving, simplifying signage and ensuring there is more balanced lane use.

"There’s a lot of weaving going on with people trying to get into the lanes they want to get into," said project engineer Ole Mersinger. "What we looked at is how can we get people lined up through the corridor in a way that prevents that friction?”

Option 1 (click for full image):

Option 2 (click for full image):

Traffic improvements for Option 1 (click for full image):

Traffic improvements for Option 2 (click for full image):

One of the plans, known as Option 2, would eliminate vehicular lanes heading in both directions. Mersinger expects this will have a minimal impact on traffic times.

"During the peak traffic hour traffic times will increase by less than 30 seconds," Mersinger said in an e-mail. "For the Option 2, the [southbound] increase times will be less than 15 seconds.  For the non-peak times there should not be any noticeable changes in times."

But at Monday's open house, George Puzak questioned the need to eliminate lanes. He said green space could be added by taking advantage of the wider-than-normal sidewalk in front of the Walker Art Center.

“Many of these options seem to be a solution in search of a problem," Puzak said. "We can add green space and pedestrian crosswalks and pedestrian amenities without pinching the flow-through traffic.”

He added: “The current situation, where you have to wait for several cycles to get through intersections will be even worse if you reduce the number of lanes.”

Bill Dooley, a bicycling advocate at Monday’s meeting, said the project should address the non-vehicular connections between Dunwoody Boulevard and the Van White Bridge.

“That’s a key connection to North Minneapolis,” Dooley said. “And they’re just letting that go.”

Scott Shaffer, who has written about the project, said overall of the proposal that “it’s OK. It’s not as good as I wanted it to be.” He was happy with the separation of the bikes and pedestrians, but had hoped for a bike lane on the Walker Art Center side of the street.

Also, the plans call for eliminating a deteriorating bus stop on an island heading south toward Lyndale Avenue. “I’ve always hated that bus stop…but I didn’t want them to get rid of it, I wanted them to improve it,” Shaffer said.

The project, which is expected to cost between $9 million and $10 million, could begin construction next March if the plans are approved.

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