Lake Street reconstruction draws parking, cost concerns

Turn lanes, bump-outs and assessments provoke concerns

Residents and business owners have raised concerns about details of the Lake Street Reconstruction project, such as the cost of property tax assessments and including turn lanes that would remove parking.

The project will rebuild Lake Street from Dupont Avenue to the Mississippi River in 2005. New streetscaping features will be added as part of the plan.

A related highway-rebuilding effort, the I-35W Access Project, would widen Lake Street between Blaisdell and 5th avenues to as many as seven lanes.

A Lake Street Project Advisory Committee (PAC), a group of neighborhood and business representatives, has met monthly to narrow design alternatives and provide guidance.

The PAC reduced Lake Street design alternatives west of Hiawatha Avenue — including the Southwest stretch from I-35W to Dupont — to two four-lane options. One has parking on one side of the street (allowing for wider sidewalks) and the other had parking on both sides. East of Hiawatha, the PAC is deciding between a three- and a four-lane option.

Project specifics have been vague beyond the number of lanes and parking configuration because Hennepin County, which owns Lake Street, is still working on detailed design plans.

Turn lanes and bump-outs

CARAG resident Gay Noble — also 10th Ward City Councilmember Dan Niziolek’s aide — told the CARAG neighborhood association in February that she was concerned about left-turn lanes at Aldrich and Bryant avenues that would cut parking. Noble said she was speaking as a resident, not as a Council staff member.

She said turn lanes in each direction at the Lake Street intersections would make the intersections five lanes across. Not only would it omit parking, but it would reduce pedestrian safety since parked cars serve as a sidewalk buffer.

Jim Grube, Hennepin County’s director of transportation and public works, said the county has not made final decisions on where the turn lanes would go.

He said the county has pinpointed a few possibilities, such as Aldrich, Bryant and Lyndale, but turn lanes are being cut back due to parking concerns. Grube said it is possible that the only turn lane on Southwest’s part of Lake Street would be at Lyndale.

So-called "bump-outs" — swelled curbs at corners — were also a design concern at a recent Lake Street presentation to Southwest area business owners.

One attendee expressed reservations about bump-outs, and a PAC member added that there are PAC members who oppose any bump-outs.

Grube said bump-outs are valuable because they allow a space for Metro Transit buses to stop outside a through lane, eliminating traffic backup while waiting for a bus to reenter traffic. (Bump-outs also calm traffic flow, add boulevard space, and can narrow intersections, making it safer for pedestrians to cross.) Grube added that county engineers are still early in the design phase, and concerns can be addressed before their plan is finalized.

Cost and assessments

Design isn’t the only sticking point; so is the project’s tab. Lake Street’s reconstruction and streetscaping is set to cost more than $25 million. County taxpayers will pay at least 80 percent; the rest, up to $5 million, would be paid by the city.

The city will recoup its costs from Lake Street property owners through a special assessment — estimated at $1.16 per square foot of frontage on Lake Street. That provoked business-representative complaints, especially since the amount is 4 percent higher than the 2004 rate.

Jack Yuzna, Minneapolis Public Works project manager, said the $1.16 figure is just an estimate and the City Council must approve final rates.

Yuzna said two special assessments will be needed, one for road reconstruction, the other for streetscape improvements. He said both would be done using the city’s uniform assessment policy, based roughly on the square footage fronting the street.

The Lake Street PAC is expected to choose preferred designs in March, using input from February public meetings. Grube said more public meetings on the Lake Street Reconstruction would be held this summer.

For more information on the project, visit www.lakestreet.info.