Hennepin Ave is a major street here in Minneapolis and due for reconstruction. The city has been through multiple rounds of design and public comment and has arrived at a single proposed design that is currently open for public comment and is due to be up for review by the city council in the next few months.
Tonight I submitted a public comment on the design and figured I'd share it here as well. Below is an unedited form of that public comment, with a few hyperlinks added. It could be edited better but my emphasis was on getting the comment in to the city over making the comment perfect. For those who want more information about the specifics of what is changing, all of the project materials are available here.
I strongly support the 24/7 bus lanes as well as the addition of a raised bike lane in the project area. There is good evidence and policy reason to move forward with these elements. First, a large percentage of people using Hennepin are on buses at rush hour (upwards of 40 to 50%) at all hours of the day. It is respectful of those people's time to prioritize buses that move more people with less space over individuals in personal vehicles. Second, the city's Transportation Action Plan states that Hennepin is designated to be part of the all ages and abilities bicycle network by 2030. This reconstruction is the time to follow that policy and add protected bike lanes. Finally, I really like that the north side the project will connect up with the Bryant Ave bike bridge to connect with the rest of the city.
Improved pedestrian facilities are also very important for Hennepin Ave. Crossing 4+ lanes of traffic can be dangerous when drivers are not paying attention and the traffic noise makes it unpleasant to walk down Hennepin. Strategies employed in the proposed plan including shifting some of those lanes to other uses (like buses) and decreasing the distance to cross Hennepin should improve that situation for pedestrians and overall lower injury rates on the street. Per the crash analysis done, pedestrian and bicycle crashes are at a especially high rate compared with the rest of the city. As someone who frequently traverses Hennepin on foot or by Bike, I am very concerned about improving this situation.
On parking, personally I am not concerned by the minor removal of parking along Hennepin. I usually walk and/or bike to business on Hennepin. However, in the cases I do feel the need to drive I can say that, as someone who lives within a few blocks of Hennepin within the Wedge, parking on Hennepin not something I would ever want to do even if a spot were available. This is due to the narrow lanes on Hennepin paired with the speeds that drivers employ along the street - it just does not feel like a safe or convenient place to park. I can also say that my personal experience matches the parking study in that there is often plenty of parking available within the a block or two on each side of Hennepin, so removal of a few parking spaces should not significantly affect accessibility to businesses for those that choose to drive.
One aspect of the plan that I do not like, and question whether it will hinder the design's effectiveness towards meeting city goals, is in maintaining the two left turn lanes onto northbound Hennepin from Lake Street. The dedicated bus lane does not start until two blocks north of that intersection, at the Uptown Metro Transit station. It seems to me that congestion at the Lake and Hennepin intersection will hinder the goals of the city and Metro Transit of providing reliable transit capabilities with BRT . Since there is no dedicated bus lane this intersection could delay service and make it more unreliable, which seems counter to the stated goals.
I understand the intent is to leave the two lanes due to volume of traffic making that turn, however it seems to me that reducing driving lanes just two blocks after the turn will still encounter the same congestion problems meant to be avoided by leaving the two left turn lanes, just on Hennepin instead of Lake St. I'd like to see more information on why planners believe this part of the proposed design will not hinder buses given the priority to be given to them. Has a traffic study been done on this option vs the reducing the left turn to one lane? It seems like the current design would result in more congestion and/or personal vehicles driving in the bus lane due to last minute merging than reducing the number of turn lanes from Lake on to Hennepin, thereby adding back pressure in high traffic times.
Overall, I think that this plan is a well balanced one meeting the city's adopted policies and many of the city's stated goals. It seems to have taken into account much community feedback on all aspects and I am excited for a more multi-modal Hennepin that is safer and more pleasant! The Metropolitan Council's interactive maps of Census data show that the reconstruction area touches or is near the 3 neighborhoods of highest population density in the city. These areas deserve a safe, multi-modal, enjoyable corridor for every day activities and this proposed design does a lot to get us to that goal.