On Tuesday, December 17, the Hennepin County Board approved the plan for Washington Avenue from Hennepin Avenue to Interstate 35W in two construction phases. The new Washington Avenue will have narrower lanes, fewer through lanes, enhanced pedestrian space, and a protected bike lane. They'll break ground on the project in 2015.
The coalition is very excited about this outcome and what it means for the area, but we're not the only ones. The Star Tribune wrote an editorial supporting the plan including the protected bike lane, emphasizing the importance of enhancing the livability of downtown. The Downtown Council was a strong supporter of the plan, as well. The opportunity to remove a barrier between downtown Minneapolis and the riverfront doesn't come around very often.
Commissioners Jan Callison, Linda Higgins, Gail Dorfman, and Peter McLaughlin voted for the measure. Callison cited the traffic analysis that showed that the reduction of traffic lanes would have little effect on overall capacity, thanks to signal synchronization and plans for a new ramp onto north-bound 35W from 4th Street. That reassurance, along with the support from local residents and businessowners for a more livable corridor, pushed her into the "yes" camp. At last week's meeting, Dorfman mentioned the importance for building a city that attracts the younger generation, a sentiment echoed by McLaughlin when he said, "this is really about moving to the future."
This was a huge victory for people who work, live, and play in downtown Minneapolis, and we'll be enjoying the benefits for generations. It wouldn't have happened without the strong support of local businesses and residents. Thanks so much to everyone who helped.