Here is the latest on the Bring Back 6th campaign and upcoming project decisions.
MnDOT begins work on pavement repair and some near-term safety improvements, however the project falls short of community needs and expectations.
Last week, MnDOT crews began resurfacing the pavement overnight on Olson Memorial Highway in Minneapolis. The resurfacing project will take a couple of weeks to complete, and will accommodate a new lane configuration and additional safety improvements between Bryant Avenue North and Thomas Avenue North. On Monday, October 2, MnDOT will begin installing the following safety improvements:
- Restriping the roadway from 3 vehicle lanes to 2 in each direction
- Narrowing lane widths to reduce speeding
- Repainting crosswalks
- Upgrading sidewalk ramps to be ADA compliant
- Using flexible posts to narrow crossing distances
MnDOT says that the changes will remain in place until the long-term project to reimagine Olson Memorial Highway breaks ground in 2027.
While these are welcome improvements and are a direct result of community advocacy, MnDOT is not doing all that they can to improve safety and accessibility on Olson Memorial Highway.
- MnDOT did not reduce the dangerously high 40 miles per hour speed limit, which is the biggest factor on whether a pedestrian survives a crash or not. We will continue to organize for a reduced speed limit of 25 miles per hour, which is consistent with City streets.
- MnDOT did not include an asphalt art pilot project at the Van White intersection. This location is used to access numerous community destinations. Students at Summit Academy’s Teen Tech Center undertook a project this summer to design artwork crosswalks for this location. Asphalt art is a proven solution for improving safety and we will continue to organize for the creation of an asphalt art pilot program, in partnership with the Teen Tech Center and other community partners.
- MnDOT did not improve pedestrian lighting, add protected bike lanes, or dedicated transit lanes. All of these improvements had broad community support in our public feedback survey. We will continue to organize for improvements that improve lightning on the corridor and add safe and convenient options for people biking and taking transit.
A rendering of an asphalt art crosswalk, designed by Summit Academy Teen Tech Center student Jerianna Camp-Huff
These are common sense and broadly supported improvements, and there is no excuse for excluding them from this round of changes. At a minimum, Olson Memorial Highway must be safe and accessible for all users. Anything less is unacceptable. We will continue to organize and advocate for the aforementioned changes to be implemented as soon as possible. This includes during the upcoming state legislative session.
Bring Back 6th Garners National Support
The Bring Back 6th campaign was selected for Smart Growth America’s Community Connectors program, which will provide funding to expand community engagement around Olson Memorial Highway and build community capacity to co-design a restored 6th Avenue North. We are excited to continue our work with these partners.
Qualitative Survey Data Demonstrates Community Support
We’ve been surveying neighbors of Olson Memorial Highway on desired safety improvements. To date, over 200 residents have completed the feedback survey. One respondent wrote, ”The scariest part of my commute was crossing Olson Memorial. This plan makes that trip much safer.”
- 93% of North Minneapolis respondents are in favor of at least one of the proposed safety improvements, while 63% are in favor of implementing all proposed improvements
- 80% of respondents want MnDOT to improve speed and reliability for transit riders and safety for people biking by converting a traffic lane in each direction to a dedicated bus lane with a bike lane
Lament for a Lost Intersection
The land where Olson Memorial Highway lies today was once a vibrant, Black and Jewish business corridor along 6th Avenue North. The community had access to grocery stores, bakeries, entertainment, shopping, and more. Its numerous bars and music venues formed the heart of the Twin Cities jazz community. By the end of the 1930s, hundreds of businesses and homes along the route were completely destroyed and replaced with a wide highway cutting through the neighborhoods.
Together with the University of Minnesota Heritage Studies and Public History department and Mapping Prejudice, we’ve completed months of research to compile the lost history of this neighborhood.
Long-Term Highway Project Designs Coming Soon
In the coming weeks, MnDOT is expected to release the initial design options (called alternatives) for the Olson Memorial Highway long-term study. This project is an opportunity to reimagine the long-term future of the corridor and make the Bring Back 6th vision a reality. MnDOT’s project timeline is included below.
Join us in calling calling on MnDOT to include a variety of project options that restore a walkable community avenue and return highway right-of-way to the community.