Transportation study yields recommendations for West Lake area

A new transportation study recommends a trail expansion along the Lake Street Channel Bridge. Image courtesy of City of Minneapolis

A cyclist hit by a car and critically injured March 26 on eastbound Excelsior Boulevard has improved to satisfactory condition this month. Police said the preliminary investigation showed the cyclist was not doing anything wrong or illegal.

The area where the cyclist was hit is targeted for safety improvements as part of the West Lake Multimodal Transportation Study, which recently concluded with final recommendations. The study area lies between Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, bordered by France Avenue on the west.

West Lake 2

City staff’s final recommendations for safety improvements range from lower-stress bike routes; to better trail crossings; to a “road diet” on Lake Street, which would cut space for vehicles in order to expand the trail over the bridge between Lakes Calhoun and Isles.

West Calhoun resident Richard Logan  said the recent crash is “eerily similar” to the 2008 hit-and-run death of Jimmy Nisser.

“That young woman is very fortunate to be alive,” Logan said.

Groups of neighbors monitored traffic in the area last summer. Their tallies of obvious near misses or screeching brakes averaged five or six close calls per hour, Logan said.

He said neighbors hope to draw attention to traffic safety this spring and summer. They may partner with law enforcement and gather groups of people to publicize troubled intersections, he said, similar to a recent effort in St. Paul.

“We want to draw some attention to how dangerous our intersections are,” he said.

Here are a few highlights of recommendations in the West Lake study:

Recommendations to be built in conjunction with the Green Line in 2020

— Enhance the Kenilworth Trail crossing at Cedar Lake Parkway, featuring a traffic signal that detects bicycles or pedestrians on the trail and automatically changes the signal to give them right-of-way.

— Install a bicycle roundabout at the intersection of the Midtown Greenway and Kenilworth Trail.

— Use warning signs and rumble strips to alert Cedar Lake Trail cyclists of the patron crossing areas at the West Lake station.

— Emphasize the presence of pedestrians at five intersections near the West Lake Station, including Lake & Drew, Lake & Market Plaza, Excelsior & Market Plaza, Excelsior & Calhoun Commons Driveway, and 32nd and Excelsior. Improvements could include pedestrian countdown timers, enhanced crosswalk markings and extra lead time for pedestrians to start walking before the signal changes.

Near-term recommendations

Recommended near opening day of the Green Line, but funding sources are not identified

— Connect the West Lake station to Lake Calhoun via Chowen, Abbott and 32nd Street using a bike boulevard and a shared bike-pedestrian path in place of a sidewalk. A raised intersection at 32nd & West Calhoun Parkway would increase the visibility of pedestrians. The route would provide a shorter lower-stress path between the destinations.

— Install an overhead sign at Thomas Avenue to direct vehicles to the correct lane as Lake Street and Excelsior Boulevard split.

— At Lake & Dean, reduce delays for vehicles traveling northbound on West Calhoun Parkway and southbound on Dean Parkway. Add green arrows for left turns, restrict right turns on red, and adjust signal times. Reducing the wait time may cut down on the risky driving behavior indicated in crash data.

— Provide a trail connection along the west side of East Calhoun Parkway, slightly reducing the travel distance between Tin Fish and the Lake of the Isles boat launch. The existing bike connection along the channel under the Lake Street bridge is narrow, dark and congested for bikes.

— Drop a vehicle lane on eastbound Lake Street between Thomas and East Calhoun Parkway to widen the trail width on the Channel Bridge between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. The area is currently a crowded spot for pedestrians, and the change may reduce vehicle travel speeds.

Long-term recommendations

To be taken up after Green Line construction due to complexity, low priority or lack of identified funding

— Complete a traffic signal timing study.

— Make pedestrian improvements at France & Excelsior. Reduce the pedestrian crossing distance, extend the median and enhance the crosswalks.

— Narrow the travel lanes on Excelsior between France and Lake to provide space for a boulevard buffer between the street and sidewalk on the north side of the roadway.

— Install a pedestrian crossing warning device to warn Cedar Lake trail users of pedestrians crossing the trail to reach the West Lake station platform. It could be activated by pedestrians pushing a button or by an infrared detection device.

— Provide a more direct connection to the West Lake station from the north side of the freight and Light Rail Transit (LRT) tracks. Several alternatives are under consideration.

— Construct an off-street trail through open space connecting Excelsior near Market Plaza and West Calhoun Parkway.

— Narrow or remove travel lanes along West Lake Street to give more space to pedestrians and bikes.

— Build a Calhoun-Isles trail connection through the Greystar development at 2622 W. Lake Street.

“Planning horizon” recommendations that require further study

— Ideas include a land bridge over West Lake connecting Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.

The transportation study was jointly funded by the City of Minneapolis, Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. The study is part of a Southwest LRT memorandum of understanding between the city and Met Council, as a condition for the city to grant municipal consent for the Green Line extension.