Drivers on France Avenue S. in Edina will encounter closed lanes this summer as the city works to make the forbidding stretch of concrete from 66th to 76th streets more pedestrian- and bike-friendly — and a bit greener, as well.
Work starts Monday on the initial segment of the 10-block, $4 million project, with signal work from Hazelton Road to 69th Street. The entire project is expected to be completed in October.
The work is concentrated at intersections with 66th, 70th and 76th streets. Intersections are being changed to make them safer for pedestrians. On the east side of France, gaps in the sidewalk will be fixed so there is continuous pavement for walkers over a 10-block stretch. About six blocks of interrupted sidewalk exist now.
"It is such a long corridor, and we can improve things for pedestrians in all three locations," said Chad Millner, Edina's engineering director. "There should be very little impact on cars, just making everyone more visible, and everything more safe."
Traffic signals will be replaced and narrow medians will give way to wider "refuge islands" 6 to 8 feet wide. Pedestrians who can't make it all the way across the street during a "walk" signal should feel safer waiting on the median for the next friendly light, Millner said.
New and bolder pedestrian striping will mark crosswalks. To make room for the wider medians, traffic lanes will be slightly narrowed. In some locations, free right-hand turns — turn lanes separated at an intersection by a small island that allows drivers to turn after yielding but not stopping — will be eliminated and replaced by regular turn lanes where drivers must stop for lights.
People crossing the street should be more visible to turning drivers who before were looking mainly for oncoming traffic, Millner said.
The first segment of work is expected to end by June 15. Work will shift to France between 66th and 69th streets, wrapping up around Aug. 23. The final stretch of construction will be from Gallagher Drive to 76th Street and is expected to end by Oct. 15. While lanes will occasionally be closed during construction, there will be no detours and access to businesses will remain open, Millner said.
The project is being paid for with about $3 million in federal grants and $1 million in tax increment financing linked to the Southdale area.