Park-Portland plan draws mixed reviews at meeting

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2012 - 11:04 PM

Area residents get a first detailed look at a proposal to slow and narrow traffic lanes to help bikers

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A memorial at 14th Street and Park Avenue S. in 2009 to a bicyclist killed in a crash while riding in the left-hand bike lane.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Opinions on restriping Portland and Park Avenues in Minneapolis to shrink the number of car lanes and give more space to bikes ran the gamut from praise to putdowns at a public meeting attended by more than 100 people Thursday night.

"Who thought of this? Do they live in the city?" asked Monica Horning, a Bryant neighborhood resident opposed to the plan that would narrow the roadways from three traffic lanes to two and drop the speed limit from 35 to 30 miles per hour.

Amy Brugh, however, likes the investments in bike commuting for the two streets she frequently uses to ride to and from work.

"Obviously, I'm not afraid to commute on the bike lanes, but I'm afraid sometimes," the Northrop neighborhood resident said, predicting that striping the road to create a zone between cars and bikes will draw more bike commuters.

The proposal is part of Hennepin County's plans to remove old paving and resurface the streets starting in late September, said Jim Grube, the county transportation director. Bike advocates and residents of the two streets generally seem to favor the traffic-calming proposal, but car commuters fear it will make the streets less useful.

Each day, an estimated 600 people use bikes to commute in each direction on the twin one-way streets, which were created after World War II in the days before freeways. Car traffic averages as many as 11,000 cars daily on Park and Portland between E. Franklin Avenue and E. Lake Street, or about what nearby Nicollet and Chicago Avenues carry on two lanes.

Traffic analysts said Park and Portland commuters could easily be handled by two traffic lanes most hours of the day, but acknowledged that congestion will increase at rush hour. That would be most noticeable on Portland between Franklin and Lake, but still remain below the county's congestion threshold, officials said.

Midtown Greenway access

The proposal would install two lanes for drivers for about two-thirds of the length of each street between Washington Avenue and E. 46th Street. The exceptions would be three lanes near Lake Street and in downtown. Lights would be timed for the lower speed. Turn lanes would be added at key intersections.

The county also is proposing a partial shift of bike lanes. For inbound Park, the through bike lane would switch from the left to the right side of the street for the entire segment, except for a short stretch where lanes on both sides would permit better access to the Midtown Greenway.

For outbound Portland, the bike lane would remain on the left side until the 3500 block, where it would switch to the right after a one-block stretch of lanes on both sides, requiring traffic-lane crossing that concerns some bicyclists. The county said those shifts avoid conflict with the dominant pattern of turns by drivers.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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