Neighborhood Consensus Reached for Complicated Intersection
By Steve Clark, Bicycling and Walking Program Manager
People care about their neighborhoods. People care about important places within their neighborhoods, and they understand how such places can be either enhanced or degraded by transportation infrastructure.
This passion for place was clearly embodied by Victory neighborhood residents at last month's meeting in North Minneapolis where 44 people came together to discuss how to improve the 44th/Penn Ave/Osseo Road intersection. Many residents even brought shovels (yes, shovels!) to underscore their seriousness.
"After 5 years of working patiently with City and County officials to make this a safer and more pleasant business node, the Victory Neighborhood is hoping this effort will truly result in real improvements" Victory Neighborhood Association Board Chair Diane Spector told the crowd in her welcome. Diane and others in the room made it clear they were looking for a shovel-ready project, and were eager to find the resources to make the project a reality as soon as possible.
As one of the twelve planning studies funded by Bike Walk Twin Cities, this was the only one that focused on a specific node (double intersection) rather than a long corridor. The area caught the attention of Bike Walk Twin Cities early in our program since pedestrians were prohibited from crossing the street in several important places reducing access to an area with potential as a viable economic hub and community center.
Residents are frustrated they can't cross the street at numerous locations
A Neighborhood Vision
Michael Moule, a traffic engineer from the firm Nelson Nygaard, kicked off his presentation by asking neighbors to write down their vision of the area 10-15 years from now. A handful of people volunteered to share their vision statements and all were collected and recorded. Here's a representative sample:
- "Victory will be a safe, green area for business to thrive; people will want to come and visit. Simple."
- "An area where people enjoy walking, biking, and visiting the neighborhood businesses, and feel safe and comfortable doing so."
- "A commercial node that meets our daily needs. Livable and walkable."
- "My vision is a safe, walkable, and friendly neighborhood."
- "Victory will become a neighborhood primarily accessed by foot (pedestrian) and by bicycle modes to promote meeting and socializing with neighbors."
- "I want to live in a neighborhood where they stop studying/meeting about the 44th/Penn intersection and they improve it."
The vision statements dovetailed nicely with BWTC's goals and guiding principles for this planning effort, which were developed based on input from community members/stakeholders at an initial planning meeting:
- Create a cohesive look and feel for the area by making the area a more walkable and bicycle-friendly environment to attract shoppers and to foster a strong community relationship between residents and businesses.
- Calm traffic and increase pedestrian and bicycle accessibility from the neighborhood and Victory Memorial Parkway without undermining safe and efficient movement of motor vehicles.
Michael, who has studied the intersection independently as well as part of a larger consulting team that included city and county officials, shared with the participants five different design options that had been considered. Each of the options presented would provide better crossing opportunities for pedestrians than the current configuration.
After Michael explained in detail the pros and cons of each design, community members were able to review the plans individually or in small groups. They then had an opportunity to vote on their favorite options. Overwhelmingly the top choice was a full median treatment that also involved a road diet (4 lanes to 3 lanes with bike lanes) on Osseo Road and the elimination of one set of traffic signals. As Michael was able to demonstrate, this treatment would not only improve safety and convenience for walkers and bicyclists but would also help the intersection work better for motorists. A truly win/win situation!
Here is a conceptual drawing showing the chosen option:
Medians (aka pedestrian refuge islands) and road diets are both now being promoted as some of the most effective methods to decrease crashes for all road users. In fact, they have proven so effective that they are now included in the FHWA's Nine Proven Countermeasures to increase safety.
TLC/BWTC staff recently met with county officials to discuss next steps for this important and problematic intersection. The consultant will be taking the results from the October 15th community meeting and drafting a final plan for a preferred long-term solution (the full median option). Funding for the preferred solution has not yet been identified. With that in mind, the plan will also include a short-term solution, suggesting what can be done to improve pedestrian safety and legal access immediately and without any large capital investment.
Special thanks to the Victory Neighborhood Association (ViNA) for hosting and promoting the meeting. Clearly, ViNA will play a key role in moving the project forward and leveraging the local political leadership needed so those shovels can be put to good use!
In the news: A recent Twin Cities Daily Planet article highlighted the efforts to improve the 44th/Penn/Osseo intersection as well as work on a possible north-south greenway in north Minneapolis.