Monday, October 27, 2008

Change is Coming to Minneapolis!

Everytime I visit Minneapolis, I screw up and drive the wrong way on the famous theatre strip, Hennepin Avenue. It's a downright shame that I am both a Logistics and City Planning student yet I still can't drive, but give me a break--Hennepin is confusing! It's two ways by the Walker Center, it's two ways by the River...why does it only go one way for a brief stint downtown? To make it even more convoluted, it's legal for buses and bikes to drive both ways, but not cars.

The second to last time I was there a cop pulled me and said, "You must have passed a million signs saying you can't drive this way!" I remember responding, "I'm sorry, I'm not from around here." The cop then asked, "Well, where you're from, do they teach you how to read?"

He was kind enough to not give me a ticket, but even after that I've mistakenly hopped on Hennepin thinking it was ok. But there's good news! Starting next year, Hennepin Avenue will be going both ways!

By this time next year, Hennepin and 1st avenues will be morphing into two-way streets. What those streets will look like is far from settled, however.

Different layouts under consideration could have bike lanes running down the center of the road, running next to buses near the curb, or sharing left-turn space with vehicles at each intersection. Instead of two bike lanes on Hennepin, one of them could run on 1st Avenue. The streets may or may not include left-turn lanes, and some layouts could create situations where cars are backed up for blocks. Drivers aren’t getting much sympathy in the current plans — they will undoubtedly travel through Downtown at a slower pace on Hennepin and 1st. City officials say that’s welcome news for area businesses because slower traffic will boost their visibility.

One major focus for the project is the bicyclists that have adopted Hennepin Avenue as a cycling highway — 500–1,000 cyclists travel down Hennepin in a single day, and bike traffic in the city has increased at least 30 percent in the past year alone.


City planners have already ruled out many layout options for Hennepin and 1st, largely because of the streets’ limited space. The curbs will remain intact in order to conserve the sidewalk space and keep the project on track for completion by early 2010. Here are the remaining options on the table for Hennepin and 1st. To send in feedback, visit [this site here].

Well, score! Next time I mistakenly drive down Hennepin Avenue, at least it will be legal!