[Update: The temporary installation of the North Minneapolis Greenway has been postponed until spring, according to city workers involved with the project.
The reason for the postponement was that bids for the project were over its budget, according to Bill Fellows, a public works engineer. I'm a little disappointed but I'm not ready to overreact," said Alexis Pennie, chair of the Northside Greenway Council. He said he hopes that a pending funding application will provide extra money for the test.
Council Member Blong Yang met last month with several dozen Hmong families who live along the proposed route. They said they want the street to stay as it is, and fear loss of parking. However, Yang's office said that he did not ask a postponement of the test set-up. ].
A pop-up version of the proposed North Minneapolis Greenway is coming to the Jordan and Folwell neighborhoods this fall.
The installation is slated to begin by the end of October on a five-block section of Irving Avenue N. between Jordan and Folwell parks, which includes a crossing at Lowry Avenue N.
It will close two blocks completely to motorized traffic, except for emergency or service vehicles. Those blocks will feature 10-foot-wide bike lanes and plentiful play areas. The other three blocks are chicaned with bumpouts designed to make traffic to weave around them at slower speeds. Block entrances will be throated with plastic bollards to slow traffic.
The temporary installation blocks eastbound cross traffic at 30th Avenue N., and blocks cross traffic in both directions at 34th Avenue N. Alley access to homes will be retained.
The two end-most blocks are slated to get a variety of new features, such as a tetherball area, a boulder and log play area with rubber mulch, kiosks, picnic tables, hammocks, a painted performance area and a half-court basketball area. Benches and planters will be sprinkled along the other three blocks. A Nice Ride bike rental station will be added next year, and a bike pump and tool station also will be installed.
The purpose of the $130,000 pilot is to evaluate two possible configurations of a longer version of a permanent greenway that advocates want to route through much of the North Side. The temporary version, which will last for up to one year, is designed to measure both resident reaction and technical feasibility. The test includes car counters in alleys and on adjacent streets, and two bike counters located in the narrowed streets
The pilot section was chosen in part because there’s been a high level of support among residents in that section, according to Sarah Stewart, a city public health specialist. It also links two parks.
But even some supporters have questions and concerns about how the greenway design will work, she said. The pilot will allow the city to collect feedback from them about changes they’d like in the design.
It’s been a long slog for advocates of the greenway. The idea originated with Twin Cities Greenways in 2009, which mapped out five areas of the Twin Cities it felt lacked such an amenity.
“The positive feedback was greatest in north Minneapolis neighborhoods,” said Matthew Hendricks, board president and a co-founder of that organization. There have been repeated efforts to gather community feedback on the greenway proposal, especially after complaints that Hmong residents hadn’t been adequately represented in initial contacts.
Alex Pennie, chair of the Northside Greenway Council, said the pilot will help people to visualize what’s proposed and suggest tweaks. But he’s concerned that people will think it represents the final version. The temporary version will be installed over the underlying street, while a more permanent version would likely replace some paving with greenery, requiring changes in curbs and probably storm drains.
A 2014 feasibility study estimated the cost of a permanent greenway between Shingle Creek and Plymouth Avenue N at $15.7 million. That's less than the cost of the South Side's much-lauded Midtown Greenway, including the cost of its Sabo bridge. Pennie said that big a budget will require funding from a variety of levels of government and nonprofits interested in promoting health on the North Side.
(Photo above: An illustration of the temporary test shows how two of the five blocks would be closed to most traffic. Below: An illustration of how the same blocks might look if converted to a permanent greenway.)