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

Posts about Public safety

Mpls. residents asked to clean up graffiti

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: June 6, 2014 - 1:53 PM

Minneapolis is asking residents to take graffiti clean-up into their own hands, literally.

City fire stations are offering free graffiti removal solvent, with instructions on how to use it on the city's website.

"Left alone, graffiti attracts more graffiti," city officials said in a press release.

The city reported 8,000 graffiti cases that cost over $1 million.

Before cleaning it, residents should report the graffiti to the city using the city's 311 smartphone app, where they can upload a picture with GPS coordinates. Residents can also call 311.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Mpls shines at avoiding sewage overflows

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 6, 2014 - 5:19 PM

While some metro metro communities are blaming aging infrastructure for the discharge of raw sewage into area waters after heavy rains last weekend, the Hennepin County community with the oldest sewers didn’t spill a drop of sewage.

In fact, Minneapolis has had only two small sewage overflows since 2006.  Those 2010 discharges of 200,000 gallons pale in comparison to the 360 million gallons spilled in 1984.

The city’s stellar record is the result of a long and costly investment in separating its stormwater and sanitary sewers. The job isn’t done, but most of the heavy lifting was completed between 1960 and 1995.

“We’ve made amazing progress in separating our sewers, even relative nationwide to comparable cities,” said Kelly Moriarty, an engineering supervisor for the city.

Mound and the Metro Council were blaming each other in the wake of last weekend's rains for the pumping of untreated sewage into Lake Minnetonka.

In the old days, both sewers that carried stormwater and those carrying sewage emptied into the Mississippi River and other natural waters.  By the late 1930s, household and business sewage headed to the new Pigs Eye metro sewage plant.

New developments got dual piping to handle the two flows. But that left hundreds of miles of older streets where sewers still had combined roles. It wasn’t until a massive Minneapolis street reconstruction program that began in the 1960s that those older streets got separate storm drains. The city also worked to take out connections where sewage can cross from one pipe to another.  The separation accelerated after 1986, both under pressure from environmental regulators and because state and federal aid supplemented utility bills paid by customers. To preserve capacity, property owners also were required to disconnect downspouts from sewers, and property owners have been encourage to adopt practices to hold back rain flow..

Overflows can happen when it rains or there’s heavy snowmelt because excess water reaching waste sewers flows into storm sewers that head directly to the Mississippi.  When sewage pipes reach capacity, regulators divert waste flow into the river. Otherwise pipes would burst from pressure or sewage would back up into basements.

The job of separating sewers in Minneapolis is 95 percent done, but separating remaining links has gotten harder and the remaining fixes are the most expensive. However, that degree of separation is sufficient to eliminate all but rare overflows.  

(Photo: Workers for the city work at finding breaches and repairing the city's storm tunnels. Photos by Richard Sennott.)

St. Anthony Parkway Bridge detour posted

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 2, 2014 - 3:35 PM



The Minneapolis Public Works Department has posted a detour for the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge in northeast Minneapolis after announcing on Friday that it is closing the bridge until it is replaced.

The new route will follow NE Marshall Street, Lowry Avenue NE, and University Avenue NE for eastbound traffic, and those streets in reverse order for westbound traffic.

That 2.5-mile detour will be in place for more than two years because the city doesn't expect to start its long-planned $30 million replacement of the bridge until 2015, and won't complete it until late 2016. The city said that the bridge carries about 4,200 vehicles daily over the Northtown rail yard.

The 89-year-old bridge carries the lowest bridge rating in Hennepin County and is fracture-critical. That means there is a lack of redundancy in its design such that if a key component failed, the bridge would be in danger of collapse.

The city said that it is closing the bridge because some vehicles were not heeding the three-ton load limit it posted. The city announcement said that the bridge might be reopened to pedestrians and bikers in the coming weeks.

Yonis rejects plea deal offer and pleads not guilty

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: May 21, 2014 - 12:16 PM

Hashim Yonis, the departed Minneapolis park employee charged with felony theft for allegedly pocketing thousands of dollars in soccer field rental fees, has pleaded not guilty after rejecting a plea deal offer.

Yonis is scheduled for a Sept. 22 trial start in Hennepin County District Court.

He is charged with felony theft by swindle of more than $5,000 of public funds.  The county offer would have required him to plead guilty, serve 90 days, and make restitution.  During the proffered five years of probation, he would not have been allowed to hold any position that involved fiduciary responsibility.    

The Hennepin County attorney’s office alleged that Yonis kept some $5,300 in field rental money that he collected from a Latino team of adults for Currie Park, a Cedar-Riverside field built for youth soccer. The allegations emerged after East African community members began complaining to the area’s park commissioner about lack of field time.

The allegations against Yonis emerged after he filed to run for a seat on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. He finished about midway down the list in a 10-candidate field for three at-large Park Board seats.  He was formally charged in January.

The Park Board allowed Yonis to resign from his job as a youth specialist after moving to fire him. Yonis also lost his job at South High School.

Two opportunities to map Mpls bikeway routes

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 29, 2014 - 11:06 AM

Local bikers and others interested in creating more protected bikeways for Minneapolis will have two opportunities to help shape routes, starting Tuesday.

Tonight’s meeting at Open Book , 1101 Washington Av. S., is scheduled for 5:30-7:30, with a program from 6-7 p.m. Part of the agenda is brainstorming routes for bikeways on Minneapolis streets, with participants divided according to sector.

What’s a bikeway?  Sponsors define them as any space where a biker can bike in separation from passing traffic or pedestrians, except at intersections.  Bikeways can be protected from traffic by curbs, bollards parked cars or a different elevation.

The idea behind the concept is that more bikers of all ages will use bike routes if there’s a physical demarcation of their space that’s more than paint, according to Ethan Fawley, executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

The push for such bikeways is coming from two sources.  One is the Bikeways for Everyone coalition of about 30 local advocacy groups.  It is supporting  a city set goal of creating 30 miles of bikeways by 2020 as part of its climate action plan.

Need examples of a bikeway?  The park paths qualify, as does the Midtown Greenway. But more typical of on-street bikeways is the one added last year to the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, where plastic stakes separate the bike lanes from traffic.  There’s also the elevation-separated Loring Bikeway in the Hennepin-Lyndale bottleneck, connecting Loring Park and the Bryant Avenue bike boulevard.  A new bikeway is scheduled to be installed this year on W. 36th Street, between Bryant Avenue S. and Lake Calhoun. The Portland and Park avenue bike lanes would be bikeways if they were protected with bollards or curbing.

The city also is seeking input on where to install more bikeways.  That open house is scheduled for May 8 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall. Maps showing ideas gleaned at Tuesday’s Bikeways for Everyone session will be forwarded to the city as part of that input.

The push for bikeways comes as the city has run through its share of the money the Twin Cities got from the Nomotorized Transportation Pilot Project, a federal stream of money for biking and walking arranged by former U.S. Rep. James Oberstar.

That means that new bikeways likely will compete for transportation dollars with other city and county transportation spending. Fawley said that when bikeways are added as part of an already planned street protect, such as is planned for Washington Avenue, the extra cost is negligible. But bikeway advocates also hope to retrofit some streets not due for substantial improvements.  For bollards, Fawley said, the cost can range from $20,000 to $100,000 per mile.

Where might bikeways be added?  Fawley suggests 15th Avenue SE between Como and University avenues, which he called the street most heavily trafficked by bikers in the Upper Midwest due to its proximity to the University of Minnesota. His coalition also advocated earlier for protection for the Portland-Park lanes. Two other possibilities include 26th and 28th streets.

One detail the city will need to address is plowing bikeways in the winter.  Fawley suggest that bollards could be removed seasonally, or that the city could plow only the most heavily used bikeways, as Montreal does, using smaller vehicles as the university does.        

(Photo: A biker was killed in a collision with a truck in 2011 on 15th Avenue SE, one potential location for a bikeway. Advocates argue that a protected bikeway there would better define space for bikers and motorists.


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