In a turn of events, the City’s Transportation and Public Works Committee decided to postpone their approval of Hennepin County’s plans for Minnehaha Avenue until December.
Earlier in the week, Loren Olson, Councilperson Colvin Roy’s aide, announced that there would be time in the committee’s agenda for residents to voice their comments about the reconstruction plans, which is not something that is typically part of the process.
After the public hearing portion, Colvin Roy proposed that the approval of Hennepin County’s plans for Minnehaha be postponed until December for further staff review.
We had a chance to ask Councilperson Colvin Roy a few questions about the postponement and what she hopes will be accomplished in the next few weeks. While she doesn’t believe that the plans will see dramatic changes immediately, she did note that she wants to explore how the roadway could be transitioned to a protected bikeway in the next few years.
Why did you decide to propose that the T&PW decision on Minnehaha Avenue be postponed?
I postponed city action on the municipal consent for the county’s Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction plan to allow time to examine a possible design that would preserve the option for a cycle track in the future without the expense of a full reconstruction of the street. The idea came from the Bicycle Advisory Committee and I want to give it a real chance. This road will serve us for the next 50 years and if we can design it to be flexible for the future, all the better.
What kind of discussion do you believe is still needed regarding the roadway?
We are at the point of details: the many community meetings raised questions, some of which have been answered, but the design may still be improved. A question was raised this morning in committee about the impacts of two bus stops on one block face, for instance, and that can be re-examined. The layout may not look dramatically different, but there are some choices we might make that will make it easier to transition to a protected bike lane in the future.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next few weeks as you continue discussion on the project?
I’m really excited about the new pedestrian level lighting and the newly reconstructed Minnehaha with bike lanes, turn lanes, and narrower crossings will be a lot better than what we have now. But I think a protected bike lane would be a transformational asset. In other cities they have brought out more cyclists, including recreational bike riders, showing an increase to the bottom line for businesses along the way. I believe this could have been done while still very efficiently serving cars so I am disappointed that this idea does not seem ripe right now. The County had safety concerns and there was significant resistance from some residents and businesses. I am focused on making the bigger change possible in a few years when more experience around the country will demonstrate safety and popularity.
What will the next steps be?
The next step will be voting on Municipal Consent in TPW committee on December 10, and then at the Council on December 13. After that, the County will begin working on a more detailed version of the design and apply to the State Aid board for some variances. They also plan to resume conversations with the public about possible “enhancements” like benches, or rain gardens.
Further information and links to other articles on the Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction can be found on our Minnehaha Avenue page.
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