On Tuesday, the Minneapolis BAC’s Engineering Subcommittee got into the nitty gritty of improving bicycle and pedestrian amenities in the planned Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT) Extension.
Kerri Pearce Ruch and Sophia Ginis from the Met Council updated the Engineering Subcommittee on the latest developments on the project and their attitude seemed to indicate that the Southwest LRT was an inevitability despite the continuing controversy and calls from LRT Done Right and pesky bloggers for a different LRT route entirely.
Earlier this month Ginis led the BAC on a bicycle tour on the Kenilworth trail to see the sites of Minneapolis’s proposed Southwest LRT stations firsthand and discuss the bicycle impacts of the project. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition blogged about it here.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Ginis focused in on technical issues with the planned West Lake station and Penn station. She presented two options, one with co-location of freight rail and one with no freight rail (which would be relocated to St. Louis Park). The relocation plan would include the 21st Street Station whereas the co-location plan would not.
West Lake Street passes over the Southwest Corridor via a bridge. The proposed West Lake Station platform is south of the bridge. The plan at the West Lake station is to build elevators and two switchback ramps to provide access to each side of West Lake Street above. Pedestrian descending the north ramp would walk south on a footpath between the two LRT tracks to the station platform, where crossings would provide access to the bike trail.
BAC member Robin Garwood asked if bicyclists would have direct access to the northern West Lake ramp from the Kenilworth bike trail so bicyclists would have easier access to the north side of the street. Ginis said the plan is to have crossings only at formalized points at the platform.
At Penn Station, the Met Council plans to include a pedestrian bridge from the platform over the freight rail to the north of the light rail up the grade to Penn Avenue. Garwood asked how bicyclists would access the bridge, and it seemed at this point they would have to cross the length of Penn station (weaving through waiting passengers) to reach the pedestrian bridge.
A circular pedestrian ramp already exists just east of the station with access to Penn Avenue, and some bicyclists use a “cow path” from the Cedar Lake Trail and carry their bikes over the freight rail to reach the ramp. Ginis said people shouldn’t be crossing freight rail tracks and should use the pedestrian bridge.
Garwood asked, “Are we going to facilitate a way for people to [use the pedestrian bridge] without necessarily be in the station area? The station area is a paid zone. You should really be riding the train if you’re there. So, if [cyclists] are going to be attempting to use [pedestrian bridge], which I think they probably will given the fact people are currently hauling their bikes across freight rail tracks in order to make that connection between the Cedar Lake Trail and North Minneapolis right there at Penn, let’s just make sure we facilitate that and make it safe and make it work.”
Pearce Ruch said she would see if the Transitional Station Area Action Plan (TSAAP) drawings address the trail connection issue at Penn.
Pearce Ruch noted the multimodal improvements planned at the stations. She said bike parking and bike lockers are on the working list for improvements at all of the five Minneapolis LRT stations. Nice Ride stations are planned at 3 of these stations (Royalston, Van White and West Lake.)
BAC member Bob Hain said that the Met Council’s plan should include room for bike parking expansion as bicycle ridership grows.
Pearce Ruch said the Met Council expects to begin Southwest construction in 2015 and begin operation in 2018. She invited people to give their suggestions for each LRT station using their MindMixer interface.