A neighbor called it a “push and pray” crossing. He was referring to the crossing on East Hennepin Avenue and 5th Avenue, a well-traveled intersection connecting residential Marcy-Holmes to a more industrial area along the busy thoroughfare. This crossing was a key point of interest amongst others in the discussion of the upcoming resurfacing of a length of Hennepin spanning from 8th Avenue to Johnson Street scheduled for the summer of 2020.
Hennepin County bike and pedestrian coordinator Jordan Kocak met with neighborhood groups from Marcy-Holmes and Beltrami, the two neighborhoods adjacent to the stretch of road in question, alongside Troy Joiner, associate transport planner with the City of Minneapolis. They got the first look at the plan the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County have for East Hennepin. Some weighed in with suggestions, mostly asking for safer crossings and sidewalks. The Hennepin and 5th intersection in front of Five Watt Coffee was a sticking point, as it also features the old Minneapolis Water Works building, which is due to be converted into a fire station in 2023 and may impact traffic in the area. Currently, there is no plan to put a proper stop light in, though relief to pedestrians is coming in the form of a crossing island. Some neighbors suggested an accessible crossing signal (the kind that speak to tell you when it’s safe to cross), or more visible signals to warn drivers of pedestrians’ presence. It’s worth noting that the plans to resurface Hennepin are still in their very early stages, and nothing is written in blood yet.
The plan is twofold: first, the street itself is going to be resurfaced and converted from a four-lane road to a three-lane (one in each direction, and a turn lane) with a bi-directional bike lane on one side; second, pedestrian crossing islands will be built at 5th Avenue, and again at Pierce Street. Kocak said it has been decided that this part of Hennepin does not accommodate pedestrians and bikers well, so special attention is being paid to upgrade the road to suit their needs.
“Pedestrians only have to cross a single lane of traffic at a time,” said Kocak. “It really makes it a more comfortable and safe crossing.”
On similar lane conversion projects, Kocak said there has been a 30-50% reduction in crash incidents, so the road will be safer for drivers as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. The change in traffic capacity of the road will be negligible, though you may notice slightly longer queues at a couple of traffic lights.
Much like a similar project on Broadway Street, this lane conversion comes on the heels of an already-scheduled repaving. Broadway’s work is happening this year, while Hennepin’s is not scheduled until 2020.
One community member questioned what kind of transition the new lanes will make with the old style of lanes at the point where the resurfacing ends, and Kocak and Joiner reiterated that the plan is still in early stages, so not all of the details have been considered yet. A more formal open house where community members can get a more solid look at maps and blueprints for the project, and more importantly, have a chance to weigh in with their own feedback, will be held in late June or early July (the date is still to be announced). The city wants to get an official design approved by the end of 2019. Construction will move forward in August of next year, and will be completed in roughly three weeks to a month.
For updates, visit the project’s website at hennepin.us/hennepinavenue.
Below: The “push and pray” style crossing, as the neighbors call it, on 5th and Hennepin doesn’t stop traffic like a normal stoplight, but rather flashes yellow to warn drivers to slow down. It will be augmented with a pedestrian island when the road is resurfaced. (Photo by Alex Schlee)