Transit, street redesign projects move forward

Tree felling
Tree felling on the Keilworth Corridor began in earnest the week of June 17. Most of the early work took place just north of Cedar Lake Road. About 1,300 trees are expected to be cut in the corridor. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

Kenilworth tree felling 

Tree felling has begun in the Kenilworth corridor, where construction crews will be removing roughly 1,300 trees as part of the Southwest Light Rail Transit project.

Several local elected officials and neighborhood groups had asked the Metropolitan Council to hold off on tree cutting until the project officially received grant funding from the federal government. On June 16, a group of residents opposed to the LRT route observed 15 minutes of silence to express “their gratitude and grief for the trees, the bats, birds, fauna and all of the creatures of every species.”

During construction, landscapers will plant 1,100 small trees, 2,700 shrubs and more than 4,000 perennials, according to the Met Council. Project officials have said any delays in tree cutting could put the project behind schedule.

With more intense construction activity in the corridor, the Kenilworth trail (which had still been widely used despite its May 13 closure) is now more blocked off to bikers and pedestrians between Cedar Lake Road and West 21st Street. Project spokesperson Trevor Roy said no one has been ticketed for trespassing on the Kenilworth Trail, though he added that riding on closed trails can be dangerous and is considered trespassing.

An 800-foot stretch of Burnham Road above Cedar Lake Parkway was closed to northbound traffic on June 26 and is expected to remain closed for 30 days to accommodate tree felling and utility work.

Hennepin Avenue reconstruction

The reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue from Lake to 36th streets in Uptown is largely complete, according to the city. Public works crews are expected to complete seal coating between 31st and 36th streets by the end of June.

Work in May focused on line painting for lanes, pedestrian crossing and bicycle lanes. The mid-block crossing between Lake and 31st streets is slightly elevated to improve pedestrian visibility.

Volunteers planted about 500 native plant species in the newly redone sidewalks along Hennepin in the hope of creating rain gardens that will capture stormwater runoff. South Uptown used Neighborhood Revitalization Program funding for the improvements and helped organize volunteers for the plantings.

Several new trees were planted along Hennepin, with a few species expected to go in the ground this fall, according to a construction update from the public works department.

Girard Avenue’s slow block

The City Council voted June 7 to approve a curbless “slow street” design for Girard Avenue between Lake and Lagoon in Uptown.

A slow street functions like a standard two-way street but has an improved pedestrian experience due to lower speeds and traffic volumes, designers say. For Girard Avenue, the design proposes expanding the west sidewalk from 8 feet to 18 feet and narrowing the traffic space from 30 feet to 20 feet. The slow street design means there will be a slight incline for vehicles entering the block, intended to slow traffic. The design calls for a curbless street, which means the sidewalk and road will all be on the same level.

The 2008 Uptown Small Area Plan called for the stretch of road, dubbed the Girard Meander, to be a pedestrian link between the Greenway and Calhoun Square. Officials said the curbless design gives them flexibility to move to a pedestrian-only block in the future.

Construction of the slow street will be completed in 2020. The project is expected to cost $1.2 million.

Orange Line BRT

Federal grant dollars for the Orange Line bus rapid transit (BRT) project along Interstate 35W have been officially received by the Metropolitan Council.

The Federal Transit Administration forked over a $74 million grant for the project on June 19, covering nearly half the project’s $150 million price tag. The FTA had indicated it would supply grant funding last November.

The Orange Line BRT will run 17 miles from Burnsville to Downtown Minneapolis via I-35W, with stops at 12 stations. The line will have two stops in South Minneapolis, one at a new station to be constructed at Lake Street that will include a direct pedestrian and bike ramp connection to the Midtown Greenway. The Orange Line will also stop at 46th Street. There will be four stops in Downtown.

“The METRO Orange Line is another great example of how transit investments strengthen the fabric and resilience of local communities and economies,” said Hennepin County Board Chair Marion Green, who represents Southwest. “This new line will connect more people directly to major employers and hopping destinations like the Lake Street business corridor and the Midtown Greenway.”

The Orange Line aims to improve service on the state’s busiest transit route with BRT features like pay before boarding, multiple doors and larger buses that run every 10 minutes during peak hours.