A Network of Connecting Links: Infrastructure Connections
Infrastructure Connections include the existing network of streets and bridges that provide a variety of travel paths for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians throughout the Corridor. A number of key infrastructure initiatives and implementation projects are currently underway throughout the corridor including:
- Lake Street Repavement Project
- Bridge Repair and Replacement
- I-35W Access and Connections
- 29th Street Improvements
- Hiawatha Avenue/Lake Street
- Nicollet Avenue Re-Opening
- Other Key Streets
Lake Street Repavement
The process of revitalization and generation along Lake Street has already begun. Lake Street is on the rebound and at the same time is redefining its role in the corridor. With this increased interest and activity, there is greater pressure for the City and County to respond with a variety of infrastructure and public realm improvements to support development, promote safety, and catalyze private investment. The following strategies are key to the ongoing success of Lake Street initiatives:
- Piggyback streetscape improvements with already funded infrastructure projects, such as the county repavement projects.
- It is crucial that the guidelines for streetscape improvements described in this and other city/neighborhood documents be included early in the program and design discussions continue through the implementation phase.
- In addition to the already funded projects, neighborhoods must work closely with the City and County to effect changes in street design, including wider sidewalks, improved lighting, transit stops and site furnishings, ample areas for trees and plantings, state-of-the-art/safe street crossings, and other streetscape improvements.
- Secure funding to insure excellent streetscape improvements including specific allocations for ongoing maintenance and repair programs. Creating places that people care about is essential and providing the means to take care of them needs to be included in every project budget.
- Establish a Special Services District to insure the continuity of quality maintenance, garbage collection, and other business needs for the length of Lake Street.
It is important to note that the proposed County repavement project generally covers improvements from curb-to-curb, basically the width of the street. The potential for streetscape enhancements from “back of curb” to building wall is also being pursued by the City and County as a separate but integrated project through application for TEA-21 Grant monies.
This Framework Plan has already described the relationship between freeway systems and the existing patterns of core city neighborhoods. While there is no easy solution to the impacts created along these margins, extensive landscaping, visible/accessible transit stations and appropriate ramp connections may all contribute to significant improvements for adjacent communities. A design and feasibility study (entitled ‘Phillips Partnership Transportation Initiative I-35W Access Project’) explored a variety of options to more directly link I-35W with Lake, 26th and 28th Streets. In 2016, a new study was published, 'I-35 W and Lake Street Improvement Project.'
The following issues must be addressed as key components related to I 35W:
- Provide easily accessible and visually attractive on and off ramps from Lake Street to I 35W.
- While this reconnection to the regional freeway system will make Lake Street an easy destination and help revitalize its commercial viability, it also impacts land use (both existing and proposed) adjacent to these access locations. A balance between convenience, accessibility and the quality of the public realm must be established to ensure neighborhood vitality and livability.
- Improve the functional and aesthetic quality of the surface streets in and around the freeway ramps to guide visitors to their commercial, institutional, business, and residential destinations along a safe and inviting network of streets.
- Well designed, local streets encourage people to visit local shops and restaurants.
- Balance local and regional uses of Lake Street and other major surface streets in the district.
- Recognize the corridor's role in a larger transportation network.
- As with many urban streets, a variety of uses must be accommodated. This should be done gracefully, with attention paid to balancing the uses of the street - shared between vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles.
- Improve signage and orientation systems throughout, using a coordinated, well-designed system that allows for flexibility and individuality.
- It is important to consider the experience of the pedestrian and car alike. Systems designed to capture only the driver's attention are overscaled and inappropriate for urban neighborhoods with significant pedestrian traffic.
Bridge Repair and Replacement
The visual quality, traffic carrying capacity, and structural stability of the many bridges spanning the Greenway corridor have rapidly become significant issues for discussion, additional study and action. Original construction of these bridges occurred in the early 1900s as excavation for the railroad trench was completed. Unfortunately, because they were all built at nearly the same time, they will all need to be repaired or replaced at the same time.
While bridge repair or replacement represents a large sum of money, financial impacts may not be the only reason for concern. These bridges have provided the opportunity for the grade separated transit line below and the continuation of the street grid pattern above. This street grid is a key element in the flow of vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian movement throughout the corridor. Interruption of the pattern of streets and sidewalks, as we’ve learned from the past, produces a number of negative effects related to safety, security and neighborhood livability. There may be some location-specific reasons to remove a bridge, but generally the bridges are a wonderful asset and should remain as much as possible in keeping with the history of the area.
A comprehensive analysis of bridge condition and recommended next steps was completed in 2007, and a 2016 study is in the process of finalization, in conjunction with the corridor-wide traffic and parking study being pursued by the City and County.
Development & Placemaking: Making the Connection: Midtown Greenway to Lake Street
Much of the discussion related to 29th Street has focused on streetscape improvements and the visual character of the street itself. In the context of this chapter - Connections - it is important to emphasize the key role 29th Street plays both as a neighborhood street and also as a connection/interface between the Greenway and the commercial centers along Lake Street. Its unique location along the Greenway edge provides opportunities for active and passive interaction and surveillance of trail users while at the same time providing an important street level, east/west link between amenities and attractions at each commercial node.
Its history as a back door street has resulted in a physical pattern that is expensive and challenging to change, yet that is precisely what must happen to support the Greenway and transform the perception of the corridor. 29th Street should become an exemplary city street - a strolling street - where pedestrians, bikes, cars, and perhaps eventually the Lake Harriet trolley extension can commingle in an engaging urban environment. The vision for this narrow road includes front doors to homes, businesses, and perhaps some smaller commercial establishments, a full canopy of trees, good lighting, new iron fencing, and well-designed overlooks to the Greenway with benches and landscaping.
While not a continuous right of way the length of the corridor, there is a key opportunity to enhance the connection where the street does exist. The following issues must be addressed as key components for the reinvention of 29th Street:
- Reconstruct 29th Street as a quiet, local street, providing parallel parking on at least one side and including sidewalks on both sides of the street.
- Develop overlooks along sidewalks to encourage interaction between the street level, and the Greenway, and increase casual surveillance of the corridor.
- Provide additional links between the Greenway and 29th Street (ramps and stairs) to create and enhance walking and bicycling connections to public transit, centers of activity, attractions on Lake Street and neighborhood parks and other amenities.
- A key component of this connection between the Greenway and Lake Street should include visual cues and identifiers (columns, arches, sculpture) that invite people to the Greenway, especially where access ramps and stairs are provided.
- In areas where 29th Street disappears, continue a gracious public pedestrian walkway along the south rim. Secure funding to purchase easements as required.
- This walkway promenade provides a continuous pedestrian/bicycle link through the corridor, even where automobiles can’t travel.
- Develop a continuous public promenade on the north rim, promoting the concept of interconnected walking loops from the neighborhood to Lake Street and around the Greenway. Secure funding to purchase easements as required.
- This further promotes the idea of choices for both active and passive recreational use - an equally wonderful experience to walk around the block, around the neighborhood or into the surrounding communities.
Much like I-35W to the west, the Hiawatha Avenue corridor presents a significant challenge to reconnect adjacent neighborhoods and area amenities. Particularly at the crossroads at Lake Street, soon to be a major hub of activity, housing and jobs, these primary travel routes must be both visually pleasing and functional for a mix of vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles. Streetscape enhancements such as lighting, plantings, signage, furniture and other improvements will provide the backdrop for additional development opportunities in the area.
Nicollet Avenue Reopening
A task force has been established for the purpose of making redevelopment, roadway, transportation, and streetscape design recommendations for Nicollet Avenue from 28th Street to 62nd Street. By resolution, the City of Minneapolis recognizes that Nicollet Avenue is a major corridor serving southwest Minneapolis as a gateway, thoroughfare and destination with opportunities that include housing, shopping, services, dining, recreation, worship, education, and employment. It is critically important that issues related to redevelopment, transportation, streetscape and land use be explored and resolved as part of the overall corridor plan.
Other Key Streets
As described and mapped in chapter 4, there are many important streets that provide key connections within and between neighborhoods throughout the corridor. Each of the focus areas along the corridor have identified several key streets requiring streetscape improvements in support of future development opportunities. In addition, a corridor-wide study of traffic patterns, parking needs and bridge repair/replacement has been proposed.