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There are two ways to remedy the deluge of traffic, Levinson said: Increase capacity or reduce the number of cars.
He is one of a group of local transit enthusiasts who’ve come up with a variety of ideas for improving the bottleneck, from removing some freeway access to transforming the intersection into a roundabout.
Levinson has suggested eliminating through traffic on Hennepin and transforming the space into a transit mall with space for pedestrians, bicyclists and a fixed mass-transit route.
Even if those ideas were implemented someday — they’re not part of the project that will begin next year — it’s unlikely that Hennepin’s importance as a transit corridor would change.
“It’s always going to be a bottleneck of some kind because it’s a critical intersection, and there’s a lot of people who want to get from downtown to Uptown,” Levinson said.
Project funding for rebuilding the bottleneck’s roads will come from a $7.3 million federal grant and local funds, including assessments. Planning for the project is still in its early stages, with construction set to begin in 2015-16. The planned updates include reconstruction of pavement, curbs, gutters, pedestrian ramps, striping, lighting, and storm sewers; updated pedestrian and bicycle crossways, and rebuilt traffic signals.
Mersinger said that beyond the size of the project itself, the biggest challenge will be balancing what all those people want and need from the transitway.
“You’ve got the 60,000 vehicles a day through there, you’ve got pedestrians, bicyclists, transit bus users, and each has their own priorities and needs in the area,” he said.
What stakeholders can agree on is the need for some improvement, whether it’s as small as more time to cross the street or as big as diverting traffic elsewhere.
“It’d really be wonderful if you could get to the Walker at that intersection without darting in front of cars,” Smith said.
Emma Nelson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.