Options weighed for Girard Avenue in Uptown

Residents review options for a new design of Girard Avenue between Lake and Lagoon in Uptown, which will be reconstructed next year. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.

Dozens of Uptown residents and street-planning enthusiasts braved frigid temperatures Jan. 24 to help shape the future of Girard Avenue between Lake Street and Lagoon Avenue.

The Girard Avenue reconstruction project is slated to begin next year and will redesign the block, which is currently open to two-way car traffic with an extended sidewalk on the east side and a narrow, 8-foot sidewalk to the west.

The city laid out five new options for the block, all of which extend the western sidewalk but vary in how the street would accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.

Project coordinator Liz Heyman said the city is trying to meet the needs of two competing groups: a vocal crowd that wants to maintain the status quo with two-way traffic and those who want to see cars removed from the block altogether to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists.

Notes to city planning staff weighing options for the redesign of a block Girard Avenue in Uptown were left by residents who attended an open house on Jan. 24. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.
Notes to city planning staff weighing options for the redesign of a block Girard Avenue in Uptown were left by residents who attended an open house on Jan. 24. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.

The project, selected based on the city’s 20-year streets funding plan, is on a fast-track schedule. City staff is seeking approval for the reconstruction concept from the City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee this winter before finalizing the design in the summer and beginning construction in the spring of 2020.

The five current options are:

  • Two-way slow street: Extend the western sidewalk to 18 feet from 8 feet; maintain two-way traffic but in a slow street model of narrow, 10-foot lanes that are shared by cars and bikes.
  • One-way slow street: Extend the western sidewalk to 15 feet; have a slow, one-way northbound lane for vehicles and a protected, two-way bike lane.
  • Shared street: Extend the western sidewalk to 18 feet; have a 20-foot-wide “shared street” model where all modes of traffic travel at reduced speeds and the street is raised to blend with the sidewalk.
  • Pedestrian, bike and delivery vehicles only: Extend the western sidewalk to 20 feet; have an 11-foot-wide shared space for bikes and a narrow lane exclusively for delivery vehicles abutting the eastern sidewalk.
  • Pedestrians and bikes only: Extend the west sidewalk to 20 feet and the east sidewalk to 22 feet with an 11-foot-wide shared space for bicycles in the middle.

With the shared-street model, resembling 29th Street between Bryant and Lyndale avenues, Heyman said it’s important to have a steady flow of pedestrian traffic. City counts of traffic on the street show a high pedestrian presence on the street at night during peak bar hours but inconsistent numbers during the day.

“I think every single one of these options has really great things for the city of Minneapolis,” Heyman said.

At the project’s open house at Bryant Park, residents ranked the options based on how each met the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, businesses and vehicles. Uptown residents Katie Jones and Ryan Brown said they wanted the street to prioritize means of travel that are friendly to pedestrians and the environment.

Open house attendees rated potential designs for Girard Avenue based on how well each met the needs of various interests. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.
Open house attendees rated potential designs for Girard Avenue based on how well each met the needs of various interests. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.

Brown said he’s been car-free for the last five years and would like to see the city implement its Vision Zero plan to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Jones said she wants the city to incorporate its Climate Action Plan into the design by prioritizing low-emission forms of travel and adding more greenery on the street.

Jones said she hopes the model can be replicated in other parts of the city.

“I think the city has an opportunity to use it as a pilot,” she said.

Brown said he wanted the city to complete a long-term goal identified in the Uptown Small Area Plan, which called for a pedestrian section known as the Girard Meander to connect the Midtown Greenway, Moziac and Calhoun Square.

Both were receptive to the fourth option, which has one lane designated for delivery vehicles. While they want to favor pedestrian access, they said allowing businesses to receive shipments is a fair move.

“For us, it’s deliveries. But we also need a bigger sidewalk,” said Ted Brown, a manager at Stella’s Fish Café.

He said either the shared-street option or the pedestrian, bike and delivery lane route seemed best to him. Stella’s gets beer delivered about once a week but receives fresh fish shipments much more frequently, so having delivery access on Girard is ideal, he said.

City Council President Lisa Bender (Ward 10) attended the meeting to listen to people’s thoughts on the space. Bender said she enjoyed designs that allow for flexibility and has heard from businesses having vehicle access is important.

“There’s clearly a desire to make this a special, calm place where we can walk with ease,” Bender said.

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