According to a survey taken in the waning days of summer, many drivers on Broadway Street in Northeast believe the road to be either safe, or have neutral feelings about it. Bikers and pedestrians, however, begged to differ.
“I almost never use Broadway by bike because of how reckless the drivers are,” read a comment left on one survey. “For safety reasons, I prefer Plymouth Avenue.”
The surveys, 989 of them, were collected by a loose coalition of Northeast neighborhood associations, all of whom are aiming for a common goal: to fix Broadway Street.
“A lot of people are unhappy with the current state of affairs,” said Mike Ferrin, staff for the Beltrami Neighborhood Council.
Of the people surveyed, the majority weighed in as car drivers or pedestrians, followed by bicyclists, however 76 percent of survey takers reported using multiple different modes of transport on Broadway. Ninety-one percent of cyclists reported feeling “unsafe,” or “very unsafe” on Broadway. Pedestrians weighed in at 61 percent in the same categories. Drivers on Broadway reported lower numbers, with 34 percent feeling unsafe, and 21 percent feeling safe on the road (a large number of drivers left neutral remarks).
“Our suspicion was confirmed, that indeed people do feel unsafe on the street,” said Christina Perfetti, staff for the St. Anthony East Neighborhood Association, who headed up a meeting on September 20 to review the results of the survey.
The survey gathered information for the neighborhoods involved to analyze methods of travel people use on Broadway Street, how safe they feel using those methods of travel, and what they would like to see done to the road to make it easier and safer to use. Suggestions varied far and wide, touching on traffic lights, sign visibility, and the condition of the road itself. What appeared to be the most common complaint was that the road is far too narrow, and curbside parking is a hazard to everyone: bicyclists, drivers, and parkers alike.
“This street is an absolute nightmare in every respect for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians,” wrote one survey taker. “One of the worst streets in the city.”
The Task Force to Fix Broadway, as Perfetti has called it, formed a few months before September’s meeting. Comprised of members from neighborhood associations across Northeast, Perfetti said that their goal is to take the first steps towards getting the county to update Broadway Street, as it is a county road and falls under its jurisdiction. She explained that the basis for change is community engagement, a job the county is not always up for due to the manpower and time it takes. The Task Force wants to ease that first step for the county to move things along faster. The data they have now collected will be presented to the county, and the comments left on the surveys will be the basis for the improvements they suggest.
“That, to me, was the number one thing in my mind, was that we needed to see that people actually wanted to engage in this conversation, that people actually thought that there was a need to do so,” said Perfetti. “Now we have the proof for the county that this needs to be taken seriously.”
Members of the Task Force attempted to reach out to potential stakeholders in their attempts to have Broadway updated, namely businesses and residential developments on and adjacent to the corridor. Most attempts at outreach, according to the Task Force, have been met with no answer or negative results.
The property owner of the Highlight Center specifically was not willing to distribute the Task Force’s message because of a potential conflict of interest with those of their tenants. At one place, they answered the survey, but were not willing to attend any meetings. Another did not have enough staff at the time of contact to commit to anything due to changes the business is going through.
“I kind of have a feeling businesses will perk up their ears when there are actual changes being proposed,” said Perfetti.
The Task Force plans to use the data they collected from the community to create a mission statement. They are under time constraints.
Perfetti said she was told by Bob Byers, senior transport engineer for Hennepin County, that Broadway Street is slated for a mill-and-overlay/repaving in 2019. This overlay would not entail any drastic changes to the road. More drastic changes (such as what was recently planned and is now almost complete on 18th Avenue NE, or in the Stinson to Industrial Boulevard part of Broadway) require much advance planning.
The Task Force doesn’t know what kind of deadline that leaves them with. An overlay would leave the same old Broadway, but with a smoother surface. By the survey results, it’s not the smoothness of the road that would solve the challenges.
Delaying the overlay project to make time to draw up a plan for a more extensive update may be possible, but this is largely an unknown factor for now.
Perfetti wants to get the City of Minneapolis in on the effort as well, as a lot of concerns brought up in the surveys targeted sidewalks, which are owned by the city.
“We need to be talking to our elected officials,” said Perfetti. “When people say ‘it’s unsafe,’ what they’re actually saying is they’re scared, and I think that’s what gets elected officials’ attention.”
A meeting to determine the next course of action for the Task Force to Fix Broadway is planned for sometime in November, date to be announced. Individual members of the Task Force will be reaching out to the city council for support, and potentially filing to the county to have the resurfacing project temporarily put on hold.
People wishing to take part in the effort to revamp Broadway are encouraged to check out fixbroadway.org to share their own comments and stories regarding their experiences on the street to add to the data the Task Force will present to Hennepin County.
According to maps, Broadway (which is West Broadway Avenue west of the river) is Hennepin County Road 66 through Minneapolis east to Stinson Boulevard.
The city has been reconstructing Broadway between Stinson and Industrial Boulevard to decrease driving lanes and make it more pedestrian, bike and bus-friendly. The estimated completion date of that project is November 30, 2018, according to the city’s website.
Below: A volunteer with the Task Force to Fix Broadway approached a group during Open Streets with a survey to gather opinions on the best ways to improve Broadway Street. (Photo by Alex Schlee)