Dedicated transit, bike lanes likely for Hennepin Avenue reconstruction

Hennepin Avenue
One of six design options for rebuilding the 88-foot right of way along Hennepin Avenue. Submitted image

Preparations are in full swing for a major street reconstruction in Southwest Minneapolis with the potential to reshape the Uptown area for decades.

The city will be reconstructing 1.5 miles of Hennepin Avenue between Douglas Avenue and Lake Street in 2023, a project that will impact one of the city’s most significant commercial and residential corridors. In late September, Minneapolis Public Works shared early designs that would add designated bus-only lanes and protected bike infrastructure and largely remove on-street parking. The entire 88-foot right of way will be rebuilt, creating opportunities for major design changes, though only so much space is available to fit a range of desired features.

“We know we’ll have to make some tradeoffs,” said Allan Klugman, a city traffic engineer who is working on the project.

The city and its contracted consultant, Kimley-Horn, are considering several design options. Six designs to rebuild the 88-foot right of way were shared at a Sept. 22 virtual open house.

Currently the street has 14-foot sidewalks, two-lane traffic in both directions and on-street parking on either side of the street. In 2019, the city added designated bus-only lanes on portions of Hennepin during peak hours, prohibiting parking during rush hour. Hennepin Avenue was last reconstructed in 1957, and today it’s congested and doesn’t work well for most users, project planner Becca Hughes said.

All proposed designs would reduce car traffic to one lane in either direction, with most options featuring a shared middle left-turn lane and some form of designated bus lanes. Four of the six designs call for a 7-foot-wide protected bike lane on each side of the street. Designated bus lanes in both directions are also featured in four of the six designs. On-street parking is included in two of the six concepts — on just one side of the street. Sidewalks range between 10 and 15 feet in the concepts, depending on the bike and vehicle lanes proposed.

Comments at the virtual open house ranged from dismay at the lack of parking to disappointment that more wasn’t done to improve pedestrian safety. Opinions varied on whether bike lanes should be part of the design.

The project’s main goals are to improve sidewalks and intersections and replace aging traffic signals, Hughes said. The city’s complete street policy, which first prioritizes pedestrians, then bikers and transit users and lastly private vehicles, will be used to shape the design, she said, as will the city’s climate action plan and the proposed transportation action plan.

Improving safety for users is a priority, with Hennepin Avenue identified as a high-injury street by the city’s crash studies. There were 290 crashes on Hennepin in the project area from 2016-19, with 69% of those crashes occurring at signalized intersections, according to a study. Pedestrians were involved in 11% of those crashes but accounted for the majority of total crashes resulting in serious injury.

Hennepin Avenue in Uptown is a busy street, used daily by between 770-3,400 pedestrians, 220-280 cyclists, 6,600 transit riders on 400 buses and 15,000-31,500 vehicles, according to a city study. During weekday morning and evening rush hours, buses carry 47% of people on Hennepin, but amount for just 3% of the vehicles. About 50% of journeys on the street are through trips, according to an origin-destination study using cell phone data.

Other planned projects will impact the design. Metro Transit is developing the E Line, a planned bus rapid transit (BRT) service that would largely replace the current Route 6 and require larger stops than exist on Hennepin today. The city is planning to reconstruct a three-block stretch of Franklin Avenue between Hennepin and Lyndale avenues in 2022 and will resurface Franklin west of Hennepin in 2021. Resurfacing is also scheduled for 26th and 28th streets in 2021. Hennepin Avenue was reconstructed south of Lake Street in 2018.

Hennepin Avenue is part of the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, and any reconstruction is expected to contain protected bike lanes, likely in the separated-path-on-the-sidewalk configuration featured in the ongoing Hennepin Avenue reconstruction Downtown. Public Works is examining options that would run the bike lanes along Hennepin the length of the project or divert cyclists going to and from Downtown to the Bryant Avenue bike boulevard at either 24th Street or 26th Street.

2023 could be a busy season for street construction in Southwest Minneapolis. Nearby Bryant Avenue is scheduled to be reconstructed south of Lake Street beginning in 2022 and extending into 2023.

The project is expected to cost $18.5 million and is eligible for about $7 million in federal funding.

The city is accepting public comment on the concept designs through Oct. 16.