The City is working out details for the redesign of Hennepin Avenue from 12th to Washington in Downtown. Come share your thoughts on details of design at open house February 22. Details here of what to expect and some thoughts on key considerations.
Public Open House
Thursday, February 22nd
4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Hennepin Theatre Trust
900 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Quick online survey too (different from content expected at open house)
What's been decided already?
The City Council approved a concept for Hennepin in 2016. Generally, it will include:
- Sidewalk/greening area of similar width to today;
- Protected bike lanes;
- Bus stops designed for arterial bus rapid transit; and
- Generally four car lanes with two-way traffic.
These details are set and won't change. We're supportive of these elements and we're glad that the City Council approved them previously.
This uses a "floating bus stop," which is regularly regarded as the preferred way to design protected bike lanes and buses. An example (Photo by Adam Coppola Photography):
What's still to be decided?
City staff are preparing a detailed block-to-block layout for Hennepin. This will determine location of bus stops and widths of different segments (sidewalk area, bike lanes, bus stops, car lanes). They expect to bring it to the City Council for approval in July.
Staff are also working to determine priorities for streetscaping (extra greening, benches, wayfinding signage, extra lighting, etc.) and desire of property owners to fund those enhancements (more on that in comments below).
There will be a lot more detailed design pieces, including how tight turning radii are, what types of trees are used and where, and other streetscaping. The detailed design elements normally are not approved by the City Council, but they do plan to have another public open house early in 2019 where they will present on some of those details.
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What to expect at the open house
The open house won't include a formal presentation. Just come any time from 4-7pm. Staff will be available to answer questions and they will share details. There will be several areas that they will be collecting feedback:
- They have a draft block-to-block layout that they will be accepting comments on. The biggest feature here is the location of bus stops. It does not include widths of different segments. (See picture below for example of detail that will be shared.)
- They will have a ranking exercise for prioritizing different potential streetscaping elements (trees, seating, bike/walk interaction details, etc.).
- They will have a visual preference survey to get preferences on types of designs for lighting, trees, seating, etc.
- They will also have general comment cards for people to fill out.
Some thoughts on details:
Narrower traffic lanes are critical: The traffic lane widths being shown seem to match previous requirements that were wider than is appropriate for a people-first space like Hennepin should be (11-foot lanes with 2-foot "curb reaction"). I think that 10-foot and 11-foot lanes respectively (and a 1' "curb reaction" distance) should be used on Hennepin. The City has approved several designs with 10-foot lanes recently and they are common on busy urban streets throughout the country. Narrower car lanes help with 3 critical things:
- Making sidewalks wider: The concept included 18-foot wide pedestrian area where there aren't bus stops. That's narrower than today and even narrower where there are bus stops. The pedestrian area can generally be 20 feet wide with narrower traffic lanes. This extra two feet of width is even more important where there are bus stops.
- Narrowing crossing distances: With reasonably slightly narrower lanes, the design could further narrow the crossing distance from today's 56'-60.5' down to regularly 44'. That would be a BIG difference for pedestrian safety and reduce the likelihood of another tragedy happening like the 3 people who have been killed walking on Hennepin in the last couple years.
- Reducing speeding traffic: The current design of Hennepin encourages speeding, which kills and injures people. The current signs say 30 mph, but the design says drive 40 mph if there isn't traffic. That can't stay. Another reason we need narrower traffic lanes is that we need them to send a signal to drivers to stay at or below the 30 mph speed limit. It is also critical to have corners be as tight as possible to reduce the speed of turning cars, which is particularly important for safety.
- Bus stop details: There are a lot of people walking and getting on/off the bus, and there will be a lot of people biking too. So the design details at bus stops are really critical. Done well and these can be great; done poorly and will be very problematic. While there isn't yet a ton of details on bus stops (other than where they are currently planned and that they will mostly be really long), we think it is important for stakeholders to have the confidence that they will be worked out. I think that both the "floating bus stop" and protected bike lane width need to give a little where there are bus stops to ensure robust sidewalk space is maintained there. It doesn't seem that is happening right now. It will also be important to support slower biking in those areas and design to reduce any conflicts and also design so it's less likely for people to walk in the bike lane--especially important for people who are blind. We know bus stops can be good here, but the City needs to engage and share more details and give it a lot of attention.
- Bus stop locations: It seems a bit strange to see bus stops (with narrower pedestrian areas) in front of most of the big theater entrances. I'm concerned about conflicts there between people walking or entering/exiting the theaters and people biking. Based on information I saw today, it was not super clear why the bus stop locations have been selected.
- Need streetscaping: Streetscaping is super important on a street like Hennepin where we are trying to promote walking and lingering. This street will succeed or fail largely based on the quality of the experience for people and that depends on trees and other greening, lighting, street furniture, and other placemaking elements. We hope that funding will be found for streetscaping beyond the basic for any street. Hennepin is a special street and that should be recognized. The Plan-It Hennepin plan (currently not available online) and future Downtown Public Realm Framework provide excellent guidance for that. It's also worth noting that local stakeholders paid for upgraded streetscaping less than 20 years ago, which will be removed as part of the reconstruction. I agree with them that asking them to pay the total cost again when the reconstruction takes out those improvements doesn't seem fair. I think that additional funding for Hennepin streetscaping should at least be considered through the City's capital budgeting process. The Capital Long Range Improvement Committee can evaluate it against other potential investments and we can at least see how it compares.