Residents criticize Crosstown reconstruction plans at public hearing

Approximately 75 people attended the June 14 public hearing on the I-35W/Cross- town Commons reconstruction project, which affects Southwest south of 42nd Street. Most speakers opposed various project specifics and urged more study of environmental aspects and transit options.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) wants municipal consent from the city of Minneapolis so the $201 million project can proceed to the final design phase. The City Council is expected to vote in September.

The reconstruction project would redo all Crosstown/I-35W junction lanes and increase the Crosstown from six to 13 lanes. The plans include extending I-35W high-occupancy vehicle lanes to 42nd Street and adding a bus rapid transit station over I-35W at 46th Street.

Construction would take five Southwest homes and one business building, Peter's Billiards, 6150 Lyndale Ave. S. Peter's owners spoke and expressed their desire to stay.

Lyndale Avenue in the Windom neighborhood would have new westbound Crosstown access. Drivers going south on Lyndale would loop onto Crosstown.

A computer illustration of the reconstructed junction impressed some in the crowd, yielding a few claps. Overall, though, public statements were critical.

"The Lyndale ramp was not mentioned at any meetings," Windom resident Clarence Larson said, adding that he is against the project.

City Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward) said the new Lyndale ramp was made public in February and was not included in MnDOT's presentation to the Windom neighborhood.

Another resident who lives east of I-35W, Yvette Davis, said she was concerned the plan will cause congestion at Diamond Lake Road, because drivers on her side of the highway won't be able get on Crosstown going west from Portland Avenue anymore. Westbound access from Portland was eliminated when Lyndale access was added.

The environment and transit concerns were also hot topics. Residents and environmentalists -- one hired as a city consultant -- spoke about increased risks of asthma, cancer and lung disease due to auto emissions. Southwest State Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-60B) and other transit specialists stressed that they wanted a firm commitment for transit in the plan, mainly bus rapid transit.

Members of the group STRIDE (Southside Traffic Reduction Initiative Determining our Environment) also spoke and circulated pamphlet focusing on the politics of the project.

Their literature alleged that the Crosstown Project had been segmented from other major road projects now in the planning stages, such as the I-35W Access Project (set to redo the highway from 46th Street north to I-94.) STRIDE said these individual projects were formerly part of a larger project that was shelved years ago due to public opposition and are now illegally being brought back in segments.

While no more public hearings will be held on the design, Councilmembers will take public comments until July 14. Residents can e-mail comments to the city at peggy.menshek@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

The project's Environmental Assessment (EA) will also prompt its own public comment period and meeting. The EA evaluates a project's potential environmental impacts.

The EA is expected to be ready for public comment in late July, followed by a 45-day comment period. A public hearing is expected in August.

For more information about the project, see projects.dot.state.mn.us/crosstown/.