The Minnesota Department of Transportation will host two workshops this week to gather ideas on how to ease congestion and improve safety along busy Hwy. 252 in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.
Meetings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center, 5600 85th Av. N., and Thursday at the Brooklyn Center Community Center, 6301 Shingle Creek Parkway, should yield plenty of suggestions.
In a March column, the Drive asked readers for their thoughts, and several weighed in. By far, respondents were in favor of simply removing all the traffic lights between 66th and 85th avenues and making the 5-mile stretch an extension of the freeway system.
Others proposed extending the ramp from westbound Interstate 694 to northbound Hwy. 252 so motorists cannot cross three traffic lanes to make a left turn at 66th Avenue. The intersection, a scant quarter-mile north of I-694, is one of the metro area’s most dangerous. Between 2011 and 2015, the intersection handling 67,000 vehicles a day saw 207 crashes and ranked No. 2 in the state in terms of costs in damages and injuries — an average of $1.5 million a year.
Motorists’ wish lists also include adding a third lane between Brookdale Drive and 85th Avenue. A few wanted longer merge lanes at key points. A former Brooklyn Center police officer said there needs to be a safer way for emergency vehicles to cross Hwy. 252.
Drive reader Bill pleaded for MnDOT to bypass a MnPass lane. “They are confusing, poorly used and create resentment for those of us not rich,” he wrote.
With so many disparate desires, MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard said the meetings offer a forum to hear from anyone who could be affected by any changes.
“We have to consider the many needs of all our constituents — commuters, leisure travelers, residents and businesses — and find the best possible solution for all of us,” Barnard said. “It’s a balancing act, plain and simple.”
MnDOT is collaborating with Hennepin County and the cities of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center on the project. Last year the agency rolled out six concepts for feedback. The overwhelming sentiment was to go with No. 5, which would include removing all stoplights and replacing them with full interchanges at Brookdale Drive and 66th and 85th avenues. Overpasses without highway access would be built at 73rd and Humboldt avenues. The plan would maintain access for motorists, allow five crossing points for pedestrians and bicyclists, decrease travel times and meet safety goals, MnDOT said.
But there is more to consider, Barnard said. The final design needs to factor in the effects on transit services, existing infrastructure and traffic patterns on adjoining streets. That’s why all six concepts are still in play.
So are plans to incorporate a MnPass lane that would run along I-94 from downtown Minneapolis up to Hwy. 252 and continue north up to Hwy. 610.
“Nothing has been predetermined,” Barnard said. “We hope the rooms are packed. We want people to be involved. This is participatory government.”
Construction is still a few years off. Before any concrete is poured, MnDOT has to finish a study of the environmental impact that any upgrades might have. That will take about two years.
An online survey will be posted on the MnDOT website after the open houses, Barnard said.
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