That pack of plastic posts in the center of 2nd Street at 3rd Avenue NE. in Minneapolis is looking a bit worse for the wear, drivers have noticed. But the real question they are asking is, “Why are they there?”
A set of the high-density plastic posts — like those used to separate traffic lanes from bike lanes — went up on both sides of the intersection in August. They narrow the street from two travel lanes in each direction to one.
“They seem to have no function that I can see. There are no bike lanes on either street, and I don’t see any signs denoting what they’re for,” wrote Drive reader Bob in an e-mail. “Any ideas?”
For the answer, the Drive turned to Steve Mosing, who works in the city’s Traffic and Operations division of public works. The once-bright yellow posts were installed as a speed mitigation effort, he said. They’re officially called “delineators.”
Before the posts went up to slim down the road width, the average speed of vehicles on 2nd Street at 3rd Avenue was 32 miles per hour. Data after they were installed in August showed speeds had dropped to 30 mph, Mosing said.
This spring the city will conduct another speed study to get a second set of data to determine whether the delineators are having a long-term impact, Mosing said.
Minneapolis also is running a test at 2nd Avenue and 3rd Street SE., where another set of posts has been set up. Early responses from neighborhood residents has been positive, Mosing said.
Both locations are pilot projects, a low-cost way to test out various configurations that could end up becoming permanent. It costs between $500 and $1,000 to put up the posts.
Results from the two studies will be used to determine whether the intersections should be realigned. If that is the case, the city could amend its capital improvement plans for “a few years down the line” to install a permanent speed reduction plan, Mosing said.
“We put traffic-control devices [like this] in our toolbox for speed reduction,” he said. “Speed is a direct contributor to the number of pedestrian injury crashes. As speed goes up, the percentage of major injuries goes up.”
Pedestrian and bicycle safety has received lots of attention as city leaders last fall released a 99-page document outlining trends and causes of crashes involving pedestrians from 2007 to 2016. The study found 3,016 pedestrian-motorist crashes in the 10-year period, leading to the deaths of 39 people on foot.
Last year, the city joined Vision Zero, an international effort pushing for roads that are safe, healthy and offer equitable mobility for all. The city has repainted more than 3,700 crosswalks with thick zebralike lines to make them more visible. It has tested bumpouts at 7th Street and Chicago Avenue S. — basically curb extensions designed to give pedestrians more time and less distance to cross a narrower street.
The city may expand the delineator pilot to other intersections or enact other measures to enhance pedestrian safety, Mosing said.
“We will continue to look at different safety elements.”
Free rides for St. Pat’s Day
Miller Lite will cover your fare if you take a Metro Transit bus or train (Northstar included) to partake in St. Patrick’s Day fun. Rides will be free from 6 p.m. Saturday until 3 a.m. Sunday. Free rides will also be available on Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, SouthWest Transit and Anoka Transit routes.
Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail email@example.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.