Don’t miss this opportunity on Hennepin

The 2018 reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue South between Lake and 36th streets offers a key opportunity to improve both pedestrian safety and water quality in Southwest Minneapolis. Yet, improvements proposed by surrounding neighborhood groups remain largely ignored by the city.

The Lake & Hennepin intersection was recently identified as the fourth most dangerous intersection in Minneapolis. While distracted drivers are often to blame, there are simple changes to the intersection itself that could help to prevent future incidents.

For instance, the current configuration of two lanes on Hennepin Avenue merging into a slip lane south of Lake Street presents a hazard where two cars often speed though the intersection to get ahead of the other. A solution would be to replace these lanes with a single through lane and a dedicated left turn lane on Lake Street, removing the need for a slip (short merge) lane altogether.

This would not only improve sightlines; the curb could be extended to reduce crosswalk distance and slow traffic. Further, moving the Lake & Hennepin northbound bus stop 30 feet into a dedicated bus pull-off bay in front of the Calhoun Square bus shelter would allow for curb extensions on the southeast corner of the intersection. Current plans for the reconstruction leave this intersection more or less unchanged.

The reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue also is an important opportunity to help reduce pollutants flowing into the Chain of Lakes. Storm water is the leading source of contaminants posing a serious threat to the long-term health of Minneapolis lakes.

Runoff from Hennepin Avenue discharges directly into both Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska and the Mississippi River. Recent studies have indicated we have roughly 30 years before city lakes are unable to sustain aquatic life due to runoff from road and sidewalk salt.

Using infiltration practices such as swales (a curb cut leading to a shallow depression with vegetation) can reduce storm water volume and improve the water quality of our lakes. In combination with a native plant raingarden, a swale can provide attractive pollinator habitat while requiring minimal maintenance.

Tree trenches also filter out pollutants and require less watering than standard boulevard trees. Minneapolis may want to consider the precedents set in St. Paul and St. Louis Park, where several residential and urban swale projects are in place to better manage storm water, including the reconstruction of University Avenue.

We believe that such measures can be fully implemented throughout the Hennepin Avenue reconstruction corridor to provide better water quality treatment while remaining within the project’s current planned alignment and geometry.

Pedestrian safety and water quality improvement of our lakes and rivers have been identified by the city as top priorities. It is critical that we do not miss out on the opportunity to make these simple and effective improvements.

Tricia Markle

President, CARAG neighborhood association