Drivers who use 6th Street in downtown Minneapolis, get ready to contend with more traffic and pedestrians.

Starting March 9, Metro Transit is shifting six bus routes and 340 daily trips that operate on 8th Street to 6th Street to make way for construction.

Crews repairing and relocating utility lines have had much of 8th Street reduced to a single lane between Hennepin and Portland avenues for the past few months. (A second lane has been available to motorists during rush hours.) Several bus stops along the corridor have been closed, leaving limited places for riders to get on and off.

All the work is related to this summer’s massive rebuild of 8th Street. The project between Hennepin and Chicago avenues includes putting in better crosswalks and replacing pavement, curbs and sidewalks. New traffic signals and street lighting will be installed. So will bus shelters to accommodate the C Line and D Line rapid buses that will run on 8th Street in the future. Benches, bike racks, trees and planters will be added, too.

Metro Transit updates bus schedules and routes quarterly, and with the next round taking effect in two weeks, it seemed like a logical time to move the buses rather than waiting until 8th Street closes, said spokesman Drew Kerr.

For the next six to eight months, that will put more pressure on 6th Street, a road that handles more than 6,000 vehicles a day, according to the most recent counts taken by the city of Minneapolis. It’s likely that some of the 10,000 vehicles that use 8th Street each day will find their way to 6th Street, too, and add to congestion.

That is a bit concerning, said Steve Mosing, who works in the city’s traffic and operations division of public works. Metro Transit’s plan can work if “we can keep lanes open and the weather behaves,” he said.

To prevent jams, Mosing said traffic signals will be timed to keep eastbound vehicles on 6th Street moving longer. Parking will be banned at several meters during rush hours, and the spaces will be used for additional travel lanes or bus stops.

Mosing said the city will also step up efforts to address one of drivers’ biggest annoyances: parked trucks taking up traffic lanes while loading and unloading.

“That has been an issue downtownwide,” Mosing said, but particularly on 6th Street with bars, restaurants and hotels. “We’ll try to shoo them out of the zone.”

Mosing said enforcement officers can write tickets but will talk to offending truckers and call their offices to remind them that “6th Street is not the place to be” during rush hours.

Metro Transit chose to reroute the 5, 9, 19, 22, 39 and 755 buses to 6th Street rather than farther south to 10th Street or north to 4th Street to keep passengers closer to the downtown core, said David Hanson, the agency’s assistant director of field operations. The six routes combined carry about 4,000 riders a day.

Buses coming from the north will not stop at the 7th Street Transit Garage as they do now. Instead, buses will use N. 2nd Avenue behind Target Center to make their way to 6th Street to pass through downtown. Once on 6th, special stops will be designated for express buses, and others will be reserved for local buses to prevent buses from clogging the street, Hanson said.

“We realize that downtown will be a challenge,” Hanson said. “We are trying to minimize the impact to businesses and commuters.”

 

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