Crosstown design change means new Lyndale Avenue entrance

Westbound ramp not expected to boost Southwest street traffic

The state highway department is proposing a new entrance ramp from Lyndale Avenue South onto westbound Highway 62/Crosstown.

That change would allow the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) to close a dangerous weave at Portland Avenue's entrance to westbound Crosstown and

I-35W.

As it works now, westbound cars entering the Crosstown Commons from Portland stay in the right lane for I-35W north. However, they must scoot to the left to get to Crosstown west and I-35W south -- a very short distance to change lanes in what is often a highly congested freeway interchange.

Mn/DOT would add the new Lyndale Avenue entrance ramp westbound to Crosstown and close the Portland entrance to westbound Crosstown and southbound I-35W. Drivers could still use Portland to enter northbound I-35W.

Mn/DOT consultants explained the new proposal March 19 at the I-35W/Highway 62 Crosstown Commons Reconstruction Policy Advisory Committee. The committee took no vote.

The entire $201 million Crosstown Commons project will get submitted to the Minneapolis City Council for review in April, with a vote expected by summer or early fall, according to a project timeline.

City Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward) reacted indifferently to the Lyndale ramp proposed.

"I don't see it how it helps our residents. I am not sure it hurts them, either," he said.

Benson knows the area well. He lives near Portland and Crosstown. He avoids using Portland to westbound Crosstown and takes Diamond Lake Road to I-35W to Crosstown instead.

Benson said under the new scheme, city residents east of I-35W would likely do what he does now. Southwest residents would likely keep using Highway 121 to get to westbound Crosstown, instead of Lyndale, which has more traffic lights.

So why go to all the trouble?

Richfield residents.

Fixing the Portland Avenue weave problem posed a dilemma. Closing Portland's access to westbound Crosstown would leave a long access gap -- between Cedar and Penn avenues -- for people living in north Richfield.

S. Rick Brown, vice president of SRF Consultants, said his firm considered three options: full access at Portland, requiring an odd, elongated cloverleaf ramp looping east of Portland; a Lyndale ramp and a ramp from West 66th Street.

The Portland ramp would cost $15 million more than the Lyndale Avenue ramp and eliminate an extra acre of wetland and two acres of parkland, according to an SRF report. The West 66th Street ramp, while slightly less expensive, would create weave problems of its own.

Benson noted that the West 66th Street solution would have spared Peter's Billiards, 6150 Lyndale Ave. S., immediately north of Crosstown.

"It makes me wonder if they can't tighten up that entrance -- even if it is at Lyndale -- and save Peter's," he said. "Those are the kinds of things that we will start to negotiate."

The change does not affect the number of homes taken in Southwest Minneapolis, currently nine.

Mn/DOT expects to begin construction in 2006 and finish in 2009, according to SRF documents.