County Road Rethink

Another Transportation & Public Works Committee meeting brings another layout to critique.

Hennepin County will be reconstructing about a mile of County Road 9 (called 45th Ave N between York and Xerxes, but Lake Dr west of York) in 2013 or 2014, and apparently 100 feet of it runs through Minneapolis, so the county was kind enough to ask for the city’s thoughts on the design.

Not much will be changing in Minneapolis – the roadway will be a foot narrower, which in this segment is accomplished by taking away a foot from the 15′ of paved shoulder (currently 6′ on one side and 9′ on the other).  Oh yeah, and those useless shoulders?  They’re going to make them both 7 feet, paint an arrow on them, and a bike symbol and poof!  It’ll be a bike lane.

The Layout

Bike lanes have actually been conjured along nearly the entire segment to be reconstructed, beginning at Xerxes and ending without any logical terminus at Josephine Lane or Lake Road.  This is a fulfillment of the Hennepin County Bike Plan, which shows a bike facility along Lake Dr connecting Victory Pkwy and a yet-to-be path along Bottineau Blvd, although the plan (a product of the late 90s) actually shows the Lake Dr facility as existing (as opposed to planned).  This raises questions in my mind about whether the little bike symbols shown on the layout will suffer the same fate as crosswalk markings on Minneapolis’ bike facility layouts, doomed to never be applied to pavement.

Speaking of pedestrians, I’m not sure the new design for Lake Dr looks as nice from above two shoes as it does from behind handlebars.  The plan makes minor improvement to the sidewalks – currently on the south side the sidewalk is mostly 4′ with a boulevard that appears to be 2-4′ narrow depending on the block, and on the north side the sidewalk is 8′ with no boulevard.  The plan will widen the sidewalk on the south side to 6′ but leaves the minor aesthetic detail of how to treat the north sidewalk unaddressed.

Meanwhile, I’d like to point out the very low vehicle traffic on this road – it peters from 9,300 on the west end near Bottineau to only 7,050 near Victory.  Frankly, this road is useful for only a small number of people, since it runs through a very low-density residential area with only a smattering of retail except for on its west end.  The intersecting streets are also very local, and on the north side of the road, with the exception of France Ave, don’t run for more than a block or two.

Why, then, does Hennepin County provide a continuous center turn lane?  Is the level of turning traffic really so heavy here that they need that extra 11′ of payment along the entire road?  And even if there is a lot of cars turning left, 7,000 vehicles a day don’t make for a very long queue.  Here’s a thought – why not just provide turn lanes where they’re needed?  Probably France and Indiana could justify a turn lane, and maybe one of the streets further east could be designated as a neighborhood access street and given a turn lane.  With that extra 11′ of right-of-way, Robbinsdale would have room for a nice wide boulevard on either side, plenty of room for nice tall trees to grow some day (if Robbinsdale doesn’t like trees, they could use the space for parking their cars, although they don’t exactly seem to be hurting for parking).

Gateway to R-dale's toniest subdivision, Chowen Downs

The half-block Minneapolis segment has a (probably) more justifiable turn lane, and the sidewalks do strange things there, in keeping with the strangeness of a park that is also a road.  I know that Minnesotan traffic engineers really hate striping crosswalks, but the five streams of non-motorized traffic at the intersection of 45th & Victory really does justify some paint, I swear.  Technically that intersection is out of Minneapolis’ jurisdiction, the Robbinsdale segment is thoroughly out of Minneapolis’ jurisdiction, and the whole damn thing is way out of my jurisdiction.  Still, I wonder if there is a polite way to say to Robbinsdale or Hennepin County “you might want to think about not fucking this up”?

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