The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) covered the "Purpose & Need" Statement, community engagement measures, and federal grant applications. Here's what this means for the Olson Memorial Highway reconstruction project.
Community Engagement Results Reiterate Need for Safety
Community respondents shared overwhelming support for a safer, more community-oriented street corridor accessible to people by all modes. Of the listed street features in MnDOT’s survey, walking and biking improvements ranked first and second.
MnDOT shared various statistics that validate what we have consistently heard from conversations with residents: Olson Memorial Highway is unsafe and inaccessible and has been so for decades. According to MnDOT’s data, 939 crashes occurred on Olson over the past ten years, 30 resulting in life-altering injuries or deaths. It is also important to note that the crash rate is likely much higher, as many crashes go unreported.
"Purpose & Need" Statement Shows Promise
During the meeting, MnDOT unveiled the project’s draft "Purpose & Need" statement, determining primary and secondary transportation needs that the project aims to address. This is a critical step in the process because this statement determines the metrics that will be used to evaluate the various project options; it is not the same across MnDOT projects.
DRAFT PROJECT NEEDS FROM MNDOT SLIDES
Thanks to community support, the draft "Purpose & Need: statement focuses on walkability, safety, and improving pavement conditions. Additionally, the draft lists social, environmental, and economic (SEE) impacts to be addressed as part of the project. The SEE impacts are environmental justice, equity, and traffic noise. It is important that MnDOT included these impacts as primary needs, as MnDOT and government partners are morally obligated to repair historic and ongoing harms and restore a community-owned commercial corridor in Near North.
The draft secondary needs include infrastructure conditions, as well as mobility for transit, freight, and automobiles. For decades, state transportation planners have prioritized freight and car traffic ahead of the health and well-being of neighboring community members. It is encouraging that the draft purpose and needs do not repeat this pattern and prioritizes people first.
It is concerning that transit mobility is listed as a secondary need, as many who live along Olson Memorial Highway depend on public transit as their primary mode of transportation. Olson Memorial Highway currently serves the C Line, and a new bus rapid transit line to the western suburbs is expected to be added in the coming years. Fast and frequent transit should be a core priority of the project.
What do you think should be prioritized as this project moves forward? Share your feedback on the draft Purpose and Needs statement.
Our Streets MPLS and MnDOT Apply for Reconnecting Communities Federal Grant
During the meeting, MnDOT confirmed they applied for a federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods (RCN) planning grant for the Olson Memorial Highway / Hwy 55 transit study corridor, extending from the Northside into the suburbs. Our Streets Minneapolis also applied for a RCN grant specifically focused on North Minneapolis. The grant applications request funding for the following activities:
- Hiring consultants to design street configurations for a restored 6th Avenue North and reconnected street grid
- Developing potential scenarios for repurposing highway right-of-way and policy recommendations for ensuring that new housing & commercial development benefit existing residents and do not add to displacement pressures in the surrounding neighborhood
- Modeling the impacts of a highway conversion project on traffic, mode shift, economic development, environmental justice, emissions, and other community priorities
- Fund expanded community engagement and visioning to help spread the word about the project and collect community priorities for both the transportation features and redeveloped land
MnDOT submitted a letter of support for our application, and we look forward to advancing this important work should either application be funded. The US Department of Transportation is expected to announce grant recipients in the Spring of 2024.
Elected Officials and Community Members Shared Support for Bring Back 6th
Your voice is being heard! Throughout the meeting, multiple PAC members spoke up about how their constituents have consistently contacted them about the importance of repairing historic and ongoing harms with this project. Bethany Turnwall, senior policy aide for Ward 4 Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, spoke about how constituents have asked for near-term safety improvements, including asphalt art crosswalks, and stressed the importance of repairing historic and ongoing injustice, centering neighborhood voices, and restoring a walkable business corridor in Near North. State Representative and PAC Member Esther Agbaje reiterated this statement. MnDOT staff acknowledged that they have found similar themes in their community engagement.
MnDOT will continue to accept comments on the draft "Purpose & Need" through Friday, November 10. Afterward, it is expected that MnDOT will unveil initial designs for the corridor, reconvene the Policy Advisory Committee, and roll out public engagement opportunities to comment on the possible project options.
You can share support for options that restore 6th Avenue North and create a walkable, commercial corridor that is affordable and prioritized for Northside residents by sending an email to your representatives. You can also email the MnDOT project staff at [email protected].