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Posts about Parks and recreation

New uses for the city's upper river

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: October 13, 2014 - 9:58 AM

The Park Board in August took public comment on its plans for a Marshall St. NE property it bought on the Mississippi riverside, which includes a warehouse.

MPLS couldn't help but wonder if the Park Board was contemplating a new revenue source for its cash-strapped parks when the following summary of a citizen comment appeared in the board's minutes, presumably as a typographical error: 

"Shannon Weed, 60 Logan Parkway, asked how a storage whorehouse in the proposed location would support the above the falls plan."

Park Board to spend up to $500,000 on tunnel study

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: October 1, 2014 - 9:33 PM

Minneapolis park officials will spend up to $500,000 to hire engineering talent they hope will find that a Southwest light-rail tunnel is a reasonable alternative to a new bridge at the Kenilworth channel.

The Park and Recreation Board voted 5-2 Wednesday night to authorize the engineering study in hopes of challenging the project's environmental studies, potentially suing for their alternative.

The board voted after outside attorney Byron Starns told park commissioners that they need to spend more money on engineering expertise rather than lawyers for now. But he assured the board that it is is in a solid position to challenge the proposed Kenilworth bridge if it can show that a tunnel beneath the 101-year-old channel is feasible.

Under federal law, park officials hold a trump card in that they must consent that a federally funded transportation project has only a minimal impact before it can proceed.  The same law authorizes taking parkland only if there's no feasible and prudent alternative.

The studies authorized Wednesday are intended to determine whether a tunnel is technically feasible and to provide a closer estimate of its cost.

The dissenting votes came from commissioners Brad Bourn and Steffanie Musich, who merely wanted the board to follow its usual process of waiting two weeks for public notice for a vote before drawing down $500,000 from its reserves. But park staff argued that haste is necessary to make detailed findings ready when a supplemental environmental impact statement for the project is released early next year.

The board has voiced objections since late 2012 to putting freight and transit rail service and recreational trails on a bridge over the channel dredged in 1913 between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles. It has an easement for the channel running under the bridge.

Jennifer Ringgold, a planning supervisor, showed the board drawings of the existing and proposed bridges that showed the width of the crossing growing from 45 to 85 feet. The proposed crossing would actually consist of two bridges, one for freight and the other shared by transit and people using bike and foot trails. There would be a narrow gap between them.

The board voted Sept. 17 to hire outside legal help for $22,000 to evaluate its options for fighting the proposed crossing.  Key officials got a briefing Monday, and met Wednesday with Metro Council officials, while drafting the resolutions to hire engineering help mere hours before the meeting.

A Metro Council e-mail received by the park Superintendent Jayne Miller minutes before the meeting said that completion of the required approval process by cities along the 16-mile route and preliminary engineering set the stage for the required analysis of parkland impacts. But Miller said there was no indication that the council is prepared to do the detailed engineering analysis of the tunnel that the Park Board says is needed to determine if that option is reasonable.

The council said in a statement after the meeting: "The Southwest Project Office has been working with the Park Board for the last two years and is committed to continuing to work with them on the landscape design of the Kenilworth Corridor, the design of the bridge over the channel and the design of the Penn, 21st and West Lake Stations."  

City's first "parklets" pop up in parking spots

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: September 16, 2014 - 2:27 PM
Council Members Blong Yang, Jacob Frey and Lisa Bender marked the debut of the city's first portable parks at 2007 Emerson Ave. N., one of three of the "parklet" locations.

Council Members Blong Yang, Jacob Frey and Lisa Bender marked the debut of the city's first portable parks at 2007 Emerson Ave. N., one of three of the "parklet" locations.

Prime parking spots outside a handful of Minneapolis business have been transformed into tiny, portable public parks -- complete with tables, chairs and plants.

The city's first three "parklets" made their official debut Tuesday, as three council members checked out purple tables and chairs parked in front of Juxtaposition Arts and Urban Homeworks at 2007 Emerson Ave. N. 

Council Member Lisa Bender said the city's goal is to create places along commercial stretches where people feel comfortable gathering and chatting with their neighbors. The spaces are hosted by businesses, but open to the public. Other cities, including San Francisco and New York, have installed dozens of them. 

"Parklets are a really simple, but extraordinary way to transform public space," Bender said. 

Minneapolis' other parklets are located at 212 Third Ave. N., hosted by Martin Patrick 3 and Transwestern, at the Colonial Warehouse, and at 2451 Nicollet Ave. S., in front of Spyhouse Coffee. They'll remain on the streets through October, packed up for winter, and reassembled in the spring. 

Mpls slipping in top bike city rankings

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: September 4, 2014 - 5:57 PM

Minneapolis is losing its traction among the nation's top bicycling cities, according to the latest biennial ranking from Bicycling magazine.

Minneapolis topped the magazine's list of the 50 most cycling-friendly cities in 2010, shocking the biking world by ranking ahead of biking mecca Portland, Ore. Then it slipped to second behind Portland in 2012.

The latest ranking released this week put Minneapolis at third. We're ahead of Portland (No. 4) but New York and Chicago vaulted ahead of both cities to claim Nos. 1 and 2 respectively.

St. Paul? Try No. 40.

The rankings are following after an analysis of census data and information collected about bike infrastructure by cycling advocacy groups. But there's an emphasis what's happened recently that may work against Minneapolis.

It's been late to the parade on implementing protected bike lanes, the hottest new technique for trying to persuade people to ride instead of drive. New York and Chicago jumped to the top of the list after recently adding miles of such lanes -- in which something more substantial than painted lines separate bikes from drivers.

But the city now has a goal of 30 miles of protected lanes by 2020, with plans to build them yet this fall on W. 36th Street, and possible additions next year on 26th Avenue N. and E. 26th and 28th Streets.  Hennepin County will add them next year on a short stretch of Washington Avenue. Mayor Betsy Hodges recently proposed spending $750,000 next year on protected lanes.

Minneapolis has drawn bike world attention for the Midtown Greenway and Cedar Lake Trail, and was an early adopter of bike-sharing. A federal pilot project pumped millions of dollars into the Twin Cities for pedestrian and biking projects into the city, but that money has largely been spent. And in the magazine's rankings, painted bike lanes are oh so 2012.

The magazine's ratings seem intended to makes sure that biking cities don't rest on their laurels, said Hilary Reeves, spokeswoman for Transit for Livable Communities, which administered the pilot project in the Twin Cities.    

Protected bike lanes in both 26/28th concepts

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 28, 2014 - 3:19 PM

Minneapolis stands a good bet to get its lengthiest protected bike lane by far with both concept designs unveiled for a paired set of one-way crosstown streets proposing physically separated lanes between cars and bikes.

The designs for next year’s planned repaving of E. 26th and 28th Streets differ mainly in whether each street gets a one-way protected bike lane or whether a two-way lane is installed on 26th. Both rely on drivers giving up one of their current lanes.

The designs presented to the community Wednesday night are intended to slow speeders and to better protect people on foot and bikes.  Bikers now largely eschew the twin streets in favor of the Midtown Greenway and residential streets, according to traffic counts.

“These streets are dangerous and we need safety improvements immediately,” said Council Member Alondra Cano, who represents the area slated to see repaving next year. A four-year-old pedestrian was  killed by a car along 26th near Stewart Park two years ago at twilight.

The initial work next year would happen between Interstate 35W and Hiawatha Avenue. But it’s likely to influence any future repaving of the twin one-way streets as far west as Hennepin Avenue, according to transportation planners.

Protected bike lanes use curbs, metal bollards, parked cars, plastic pipes or planters to separate driving and biking lanes. They're the third generation of on-road bike lanes to be introduced in Minneapolis after the initial narrow painted lanes, and later buffered painted lanes about the width of a car lane.

The city’s first protected bike lane is a mere six blocks along 1st Avenue. N. downtown. Construction of a two-way set of protected lanes is expected any week now on an eight-block section of W. 36th St. east of Lake Calhoun. But the work on 26th and 28th would encompass more than 20 blocks.

The potential protected lanes on 26th and 28th are still some distance from a certainty.  Jon Wertjes, the city’s traffic director, said the next step is to factor in public feedback on the alternatives and put them through analysis of their impact on motorized traffic and cost.

Then things get political, since the City Council ultimately would approve layout changes, as well approve outside funding that Wertjes said would be necessary to pay the cost of bike lanes that are much costlier than extra-wide painted lanes, such as those installed when Portland and Park avenues were narrowed to two traffic lanes.

The city has earmarked $400,000 in 2015 to make biking or pedestrian improvements on the two streets when it strips a layer of old asphalt and repaves 26th while adding a thin layer of tar and rock chips to resurface 28th. Among the potential improvements for people on foot are intersection bumpouts to reduce the time and distance needed to cross the streets, and concrete islands to give them a refuge partway across a street.

But it’s the proposed reduction in the number of lanes that’s likely to provoke a backlash from some drivers.  Wertjes acknowledged that people who like to drive at more than the posted speed limit of 30 miles an hour “are going to be sorely disappointed” by the design concepts.

If a protected bike lane is added to each street, they would shrink in the Hiawatha-35W section from three continuous traffic lanes to two lanes, although a third lane would be available for intermittent stretches, subject to turn lane and parking needs. That’s also true on 26th if a two-way bike lane was added there, but 28th would maintain its current number of lanes under that scenario.

“This has a variety of positive impacts,” said Jose Luis Villasenor, who lives between 26th and 28th in the Phillips community. He said he hesitates to bike on the two streets with his three boys in a trailer and child seat. He said the proposed designs make the streets safer and promote biking among the area’s minority residents.

Why does 26th get the two-way bike lanes in that proposal?  Wertjes said one factor is that 26th serves some major destinations, including a medical complex and Wells Fargo’s operations in the old Honeywell campus. Another is that 26th is farther than 28th from another major biking facility, the Midtown Greenway.The city is also studying the feasibility of adding protected bike lanes on E. 24th St. or Franklin Avenue.

But the proposed design that installs two-way bike lanes on 26th was found lacking by Ethan Fawley executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, who said 28th should get at least a bike lane. Some bikers attending the open house said they’d like to see a more substantial barrier between cars and bikes than the lightweight plastic tubes the city has used in some spots. Wertjes said that the type of separation haven't been determined.

In the project's web site, comments favoring protecting bike lanes appeared to draw substantially more support than those from people opposing a lane reduction.

(Photos: Above -- the city's first protected bike lane on 1st Avenue N used parked cars to shield bikers; Right -- Another protected lane on the Plymouth Avenue Bridge uses liught plastic pipes to separate bike and driving lanes.  No decision on type of separation has been made for 26th and 28th streets.

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