As Our Streets Minneapolis turns ten, we’re looking back on the changes we’ve seen in our public spaces and our streets since the organization began. None of the many improvements and innovations could have happened without visionary community leaders and volunteers, political leaders willing to take risks, and dedicated public agency staff. Here are ten of our favorite improvements, from massive public works projects to smaller changes that made walking, biking, and rolling better in our city.
1. From Highway to Transitway
The Green Line changed the landscape of both Minneapolis and Saint Paul for the better. A four-lane highway-style road used to run through the East and West Bank campuses of the University of Minnesota, one of the areas with the heaviest pedestrian and bicyclist activity in the Twin Cities. Now, light rail and buses are prioritized and car traffic has been eliminated from much of the street.
2. From Parking Lot to Park
Throughout Downtown East and the North Loop, acres of asphalt used for storing cars became parks, apartment buildings, offices, and more.
3. Space for People on the Franklin Avenue Bridge
Hennepin County’s Franklin Avenue bridge across the Mississippi was transformed from four lanes for cars to two car lanes with ample protected space for walking, biking, and pausing to take in the view.
4. New Bicycle and Pedestrian Connection from Cedar Riverside to Downtown
In the tangle of concrete ramps and highways that occupy the no-man’s-land between Downtown, Cedar-Riverside, and Ventura Village, the 5th Street ramp became Samatar Crossing! The car-free connection is named for Hussein Samatar, the first Somali-American elected to public office in Minneapolis.
5. Minneapolis’ First Shared Street
29th Street off of Lyndale was transformed in multiple ways- the parking lot on the corner became a multi-family apartment building with ground floor retail, and the street was redesigned as a space for people walking, biking, and driving to mix at slow speeds, with public art and places to sit.
6. Traffic Diverter Calms 29th Avenue
After a test closure, the City permanently closed 29th Avenue to cars where it crosses the Midtown Greenway, helping to reduce the amount of car traffic on the 29th Avenue bicycle boulevard as well as creating a safer connection to the Greenway.
7. Signalized Crossing of Broadway Ave NE
The signalized crossing of Broadway Ave NE on the 5th Street Bike Boulevard is a critical connection, allowing people to cross a notoriously stressful street and make their way from Northeast to Dinkytown and beyond.
8. Plymouth Ave Bridge Lane Reduction Connects North and Northeast
Overbuilt at four lanes, the Plymouth Ave bridge is now home to protected bikeways that create a critical connection between North and Northeast Minneapolis. We can now bike from Theodore Wirth Park all the way to Boom Island riding mostly in protected lanes!
9. Bike Lane Upgrades Create Protected Space
Farther west on Plymouth Avenue, conventional painted bike lanes became concrete median-protected bike lanes that keep the bike lanes free of cars and help people of all ages and abilities feel safe navigating the city on two wheels.
10. Walkers Welcomed on Minnehaha Avenue
Curb extensions abound on Minnehaha Avenue, shortening crossing distances. Multi-colored pavement helps create a sense of place. Pedestrian-scale lamp posts light the way at night. With the help of extensive community advocacy, the street has become a more welcoming place to explore on foot and shop at small local businesses, from All Square to Moon Palace to Minnehaha Scoop.
What improvements from the last ten years would make it into your top ten? What could this list look like ten years from now? Let us know in the comments!