Minneapolis seventh-grader Max Moen’s lifelong fascination with maps and roadways inspired him to send Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat a detailed rendering of his solution to traffic issues related to the Ryan Cos. Downtown East development.

Moen envisioned underpasses for Park and Portland avenues between 4th and 5th streets that wouldn’t interfere with proposed green space on that block. His plan contemplated three lanes of traffic on each roadway and one bike lane with no sidewalks.

He sent Opat a letter and a hand-drawn, color-coded map of the area that Moen carefully noted was “not to scale.”

Moen’s plan addressed Ryan’s controversial proposal for closing Park and Portland, an idea that has since been dropped.

Moen said he sent the letter to Opat because he saw his name in the paper. The chairman was greatly impressed and sent one in response, telling Moen he appreciated the suggestions. “Having constituents your age take such an interest in the development of the community is very encouraging to me,” Opat wrote. “In your initiative, I see a future leader.”

Moen says he’s been enamored of maps for as long as he can remember. He carries a well-worn sketchbook full of detailed renderings of fictional towns with elaborate roadways. He’s constantly revising his work, taping over spots he’s redone so he can perfect them.

His mapping passion extended to the creation of cartographic key fobs he sold for $5 each at the Uptown Art Fair last summer. Next month he will realize a lifelong wish to compete in the state Geographic Bee.

His connected passion is expanding the Twin Cities transit system. He would like to see a new light-rail line from the Mall of America westward to the Eden Prairie Center. Then he’d like to see a connection from the Midtown Greenway to the Central Line in the area of Highway 280.

Moen, of course, could provide sketches of his proposals.


rochelle.olson@startribune.com @rochelleolson