We’ve heard about the traffic woes that developed in Edina and Hopkins neighborhoods following the shutdown of the Nine Mile Creek bridge on Hwy. 169 and the measures officials have taken to steer drivers to posted detour routes and keep those trying to save time from cutting through.
Now, with a $46 million pavement rehabilitation and bridge repair project on Interstate 94 between Brooklyn Center and downtown Minneapolis about to get underway — and the potential for traffic jams of apocalyptic proportions to come with it — residents in the Bottineau neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis are voicing opposition to Metro Transit’s plan to take 180 suburban express buses off the freeway and route them along East River Road and Marshall Street.
That’s a very bad idea, said Mariam Slayhi, president of the Bottineau Neighborhood Association.
Marshall Street is a two-lane road that hugs the east side of the Mississippi River. It’s lined with homes and small businesses, and lots of parked cars that in places create narrow passages for the 8,400 motorists that already use the road each day, according to Hennepin County traffic counts. It’s also heavily used by bicyclists, pedestrians and in the summer, pedal pubs.
“It’s a road that can’t handle what they expect it to do,” Slayhi said. “[The Minnesota Department of Transportation] and Metro Transit don’t know what it’s like on the ground or see the traffic. They just look at stats and maps. They don’t realize that maybe their choices [for rerouting traffic] are not the best for the neighborhoods.”
Slayhi is asking Metro Transit to instead shift buses to Hwy. 100.
That’s a pretty big request, especially since most of the bus routes that would travel on East River Road, which converts to Marshall Street at the Hennepin-Anoka County line, originate on the east side of the Mississippi in cities such as Blaine, Coon Rapids and Fridley. Routing those buses over to Hwy. 100 would add extra miles and time for each trip.
Using East River Road and Marshall Street is close to the current route and “is the most efficient and direct route into downtown,” said Dave Hanson, Metro Transit’s manager of on-street bus operations. “If we add inconvenience to riders, they will bail on the bus and resort to driving, and likely go through the same neighborhood.”
Lest it sound like Metro Transit is being intractable, Hanson said the residents’ objections have not fallen on deaf ears. There are still a couple weeks before traffic hassles set in, and Hanson said his agency is going back to the drawing board to explore a number of other options, using Hwy. 100 among them.
On Monday, MnDOT representatives will take transit officials on a field trip to look at the feasibility of using Hwy. 100. MnDOT has granted Metro Transit permission to run its buses on the shoulder between 42nd Avenue N. and Hwy. 55 to bypass congestion should it choose that option.
Then there is the issue to solve of getting buses from Hwy. 100 into downtown. Hwy. 55 has lots of traffic lights. Come July, the I-394 MnPass lane will be free to all drivers for the month, meaning buses will co-mingle with general commuters. That makes the Hwy. 100 option much less appealing.
It’s a tough call, Hanson admitted, and what is enacted may change based on conditions. “Nothing will be perfect for anybody.”
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