Redesigning the Franklin/Cedar/Minnehaha Intersection

Franklinareagoogmap

Existing intersection of Franklin Ave, Cedar Ave, and Minnehaha Ave

If you have ever traveled through the intersection of Franklin/Cedar/Minnehaha, you know how confusing, wide, fast, and unfriendly it feels. With the second-most bicycle crashes, this is the second-most dangerous intersection in Minneapolis. It’s also one of the most dangerous intersections in Hennepin County, with crash rates more than two and a half times the “critical rate.”

Over the past few decades, many groups have put hours into planning a more bikeable, walkable, driveable Franklin, including the intersection of Minnehaha, Franklin, and Cedar.

And because Hennepin County will be paving Franklin from 21st to 16th, and Cedar is being repaved down to 22nd, this is a golden opportunity to improve one of the most dangerous intersections in the City. The City and County have been working together to put together a design that improves the area within their budget, while also looking forward to expected developments. The expectation is that this project would be fully built next year.

Keep it simple – close Minnehaha

The fundamental change proposed to improve the intersection is to close Minnehaha north of Franklin, which would simplify and align traffic lanes. This plan includes removing the signal at Minnehaha, and making it so you can only turn right onto and off of Franklin from Minnehaha. To relieve some of the traffic in the intersection, wayfinding signage would be added to encourage cars to use 17th. In addition, layout changes on Franklin and Cedar would make car traffic much more efficient than in its current configuration, according to the County’s traffic projections.

Another fundamental change to this intersection would be to improve medians to slow turning cars, provide pedestrian refuges, and to construct a median on Franklin to prevent left turns onto Franklin.

The green section of what is now Minnehaha north of Franklin indicates a space for pedestrians, and will no longer allow traffic through. Pink shows new medians.

The green section of what is now Minnehaha north of Franklin indicates a space for pedestrians, and will no longer allow traffic through. Pink shows new medians.

What about bikes and pedestrians?

From Minnehaha, how do bikes turn left/westbound on Franklin, and how do bikes continue north?

FranklinCedarMhahaNorth

From Minnehaha, the plan would be to encourage bikes to turn left across Minnehaha on the south side of Franklin. The area between Cedar and Minnehaha would become a “multi-use trail.” From the multi-use trail you would need to cross Franklin with the signal.

To head westbound from Minnehaha
Continue on the westbound bike lane on Franklin

To head north onto 20th Ave S
Continue on the multi-use trail on the east side of Cedar, which connects to 20th Ave S.

Further west on Franklin, under the LRT, an improved pedestrian crosswalk near the Anpetu Was’te cultural arts marketplace will be installed.

Further west on Franklin, under the LRT, an improved pedestrian crosswalk near the Anpetu Was’te cultural arts marketplace will be installed.

After Minnehaha north of Franklin is closed, that area and part of the wide Taco Bell driveway area would be turned into public space. How this space would be managed is still being worked out, but making this area into non-driveable space would tighten up lanes, slows down turns, and align traffic lanes. All of those changes would contribute to simplicity and safety for bikes, cars, and people on foot.

These are examples of the elements that would close Minnehaha to car traffic, north of Franklin.

These are examples of the elements that would close Minnehaha to car traffic, north of Franklin.

Two options for Minnehaha Ave S alignment

There are two options being considered for the configuration of Minnehaha where it connects to eastbound Franklin.

1. One option is to take out the existing median, making the turning radius tighter (and therefore slower), and aligning Minnehaha to 20th Ave. This option seems to be the most bike and pedestrian friendly.

Option 1

2. The second option is cheaper because it uses the existing median to separate northbound and southbound Minnehaha traffic, which has a wider turning radius which may encourage cars to gain speed as they turn.

Option 2

Challenges remain

The County still needs to have further conversation with the firehouse and Taco Bell on Franklin. Conversations have been started, but there is still work to be done there.

A question remains about how bikes will safely navigate crossing Minnehaha when heading westbound, like described above. Minnehaha will have low traffic volumes, but how are we making this crossing safe for everyone?

There is also a potentially dangerous situation involving a double-threat for pedestrians crossing from Minnehaha to 20th Ave, using the small, 4-foot median on Franklin as refuge. One westbound Franklin lane becomes two at that point, creating a dangerous “double-threat” situation for pedestrians. A possible answer is to this is to push the point where Franklin’s one westbound lane becomes two further west, by only about four car lengths. This could mean a wider median for pedestrians to take refuge on, and would mean pedestrians only have to cross one lane of westbound car traffic, eliminating the double threat scenario and greatly improving pedestrian safety. The County is not planning a crosswalk here, but pedestrians will cross here and they deserve safety.

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The pedestrian realm in wintertime.

Making plans with room to grow in the future

There is a realization that this intersection project has the potential to better connect bikes and pedestrians, but that scope must be limited to fit budgeted time and money. The best this process can do, short of finding more money and making the connections now, is to make sure what is being built now does not limit future connections.

  • A bike connection from the LRT trail to E 22nd St is in the works. This intersection project will not be able to create a connection to the LRT trail, but it will be designed to accommodate a future connection project.
  • The City’s bikeway plan identifies 20th Ave S as a future protected bikeway, but without much more specification about where exactly it would be built- a one-way or two-way bikeway are both possibilities.
  • Possible bike and pedestrian improvement on the “goat path” or “desire path which pedestrians and sometimes bikes use to connect 20th Ave segments.

Crucial time for input

There is no better time to give your input on this plan. The County will be hosting listening sessions for this project, and needs to hear about your needs as a road and sidewalk user. Supportive voices that like the overall plan (even if you have concerns!) are very important for this process!

This post originally posted on the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition blog by Laura Kling.

 


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25 Responses to Redesigning the Franklin/Cedar/Minnehaha Intersection

  1. Gary January 28, 2016 at 10:58 am #

    I missed the two listening sessions this week. What’s the best way to provide input? Should I email the County point of contact directly?

    • Emily January 28, 2016 at 11:07 am #

      Hi Gary,

      There is one more session if you are able to attend. It is the Seward Neighborhood Community Development Committee on Tuesday, February 9th, 7pm, at Matthews Community Center.

      I’m with the bicycle coalition, so feel free to email me at emily@mplsbike.org if you need more information. Thanks!

  2. John Charles Wilson January 28, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    Love the crosswalk idea at the LRT station!

    Public space by Taco Bell: A double-edged sword. Yes, it would be nice to have a pleasant outdoor area with seating and maybe tables where one could eat Taco Bell food. (Yes, the Bell already has some outdoor tables but they are old and decrepit.) *However* that location is often full of alcoholics, panhandlers, and other people who already make it so unpleasant that I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who quit eating at that Taco Bell because of it. With a *public* space it would be worse because the Taco Bell staff wouldn’t be able to make anyone leave.

    • Erik B January 28, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

      Whether I’m walking, biking or driving around that intersection the last thing I’m worried about is vagrants. If I’m driving it’s usually being sideswiped by a car veering our of the turn lane. If I’m walking or biking it’s being maimed or killed.

  3. Erik B January 28, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    I am surprised to say this looks really nice! I did not expect Minnehaha to close but I really like it.

    The description on how peopling biking would navigate this area is confusing.

    Hypothetically thinking how would this be redesigned if a Hiawatha-I94 interchanged existed. Traffic at this intersection would probably be cut in half.

  4. Cameron Slick January 28, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    This sounds great, though a grand roundabout with a monument in the middle would be better.

    • Emily February 1, 2016 at 11:08 am #

      Hi Cameron, my name is Emily and I work at the Bicycle Coalition. I wanted to let you know that a roundabout has been brought up by several others, but it was determined by the County to not be in the budget and would be potentially dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary February 1, 2016 at 11:41 am #

        If it’s dangerous for pedestrians and bikes to navigate, we’re doing it wrong 🙂 The biggest fail was not doing one at Franklin and E River Rd, where we now have a byzantine signal — both slow for all users, and unsightly.

        But I get that a roundabout here would be a pretty monumental project, not within the scope of this.

  5. Matt Brillhart January 28, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    What a damn shame that Taco Bell just rebuilt that location. Hennepin County could’ve and should have quietly acquired that property through eminent domain. While it clearly isn’t needed for the plans they came up with, I doubt anyone would’ve batted an eye had they tried. The Taco Bell parcel + the M’haha ROW would’ve made a fantastic TOD site.

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman January 28, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

      On what basis would Hennepin County have acquired the Taco Bell? Minnesota’s one of the states that reformed their eminent domain laws as a result of the blowback from Kelo v. City of New London. You can’t seize a property just because you don’t like what’s on it and hand it to a developer that’s going to build something bigger on it. And since the parcel was obviously zoned to allow the Taco Bell, you can’t tell the property owner they can’t invest in their property and rebuild their restaurant to increase efficiency and meet modern franchise standards.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary January 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

        That state law ties the hands of Minnesotan cites to prevent them from acting for the valid public purpose of economic development.

        But yes, the law is on the books, so you can’t just buy a property out because you don’t like it. But we’re talking about a roadway reconfiguration — where cities routinely buy out houses. I think neither of us needs to look very far from our front door to see where a city uses eminent domain for a transportation purpose…

        The fact that it was just rebuilt, however, seems to suggest that Minneapolis’s zoning code is inadequate to provide the community what it wants. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Taco Bell.

  6. Alex January 28, 2016 at 8:37 pm #

    This is seems like a great improvement for the intersections with Franklin, especially the squared-off alternative for Minnehaha.

    Too bad about the drastically widened turning radii at the 22nd & Cedar intersection though. That’s going to make an already-terrible walk even worse. Probably a fair trade for the improvements at Minnehaha & Franklin though, which seems more heavily used by pedestrians.

  7. Aaron Isaacs
    Aaron Isaacs January 29, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    There’s no reason for a Franklin Avenue crosswalk under the LRT station. That’s why there’s vertical access (elevators and stairs) to the station directly next to the bus stops in both directions. Why create a safety hazard where none exists?

    • Ethan Osten
      Ethan Osten January 30, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

      It’s for the plaza area in the middle (Anpetu Was’te), not for station circulation.

    • Andy February 4, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

      Aaron – lots of people cross at this location now, with no crossing whatsover. Stand at this station for 20 minutes and you’ll see people doing it. In addition to the LRT, there are 3 bus routes that use this stop as a transfer point. While people could go up the stairs, over the bridge and down the other side, they often don’t. The crosswalk is meant to make a currently dangerous situation safer, as well as provide access to the median plaza.

  8. Evan Roberts
    Evan January 29, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    If Minnehaha was closed there would be a developable parcel there. Obviously, right by a Taco Bell and a major road which isn’t the most attractive place ever, but large enough to do something with.

    Left as open space this would be terrible. It’s exposed to the sun, and directly in the path of the prevailing winds. An improvement over the road that’s there now, but only barely. But buildings have walls and roofs that make being right beside a Taco Bell and a major road a little easier to deal with.

    Downside is that it locks the city into the decision for a longer period of time, so seeing how traffic patterns change in first few months would be necessary.

  9. David Markle
    David Markle February 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    While a lot of time and effort went into this article, it makes no sense to me because Minnehaha does not extend north from Franklin.

    Please explain.

  10. David Markle
    David Markle February 7, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    Does this article mean that the very short portion of Minnehaha that extends NORTHWEST from the intersection would be closed? It terminates at the ramp to eastbound I-94. Closing it would dramatically inhibit access to the freeway.

    Or does it actually refer to 20th Avenue South? Closing it would put more traffic past the freeway ramps and Cedar.

    Either way, this matter sounds ominously like a done deal. Has the City of Minneapolis notified anyone in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood? I don’t know of any discussions that have taken place here. Any such changes would have significant effects in my neighborhood.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary February 7, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

      The portion of Minnehaha Ave between Franklin and Cedar will be closed (by Taco Bell), but the ~1/8 mile portion where Minnehaha and Cedar run together, back to the main alignment of Cedar, will remain open.

      If you’re on NB Minnehaha south of Franklin, your only option would be to turn right/east on Franklin. To access NB Cedar Ave (to EB 94), you’d turn left on 22nd and right on Cedar.

      Not quite as elegant a movement, but I think access to 94 is pretty comparable.

  11. David Markle
    David Markle February 7, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

    Sean, the map is confusing, and the portion of 22nd immediately north of Franklin doesn’t cross I-94. If I turned onto 22nd from EB on Franklin, I’d have to turn around on 22nd and get back on WB Franklin in order to get to Cedar and the I-94 ramp. Otherwise, if as you say I can only turn right as I come NB on Minnehaha to Franklin, I’d have to go quite a distance east on Franklin and then turn left, heading across I-94 towards Riverside Avenue and then back west to Cedar, either via Riverside Avenue or by making a left onto 20th, then a right on that 1/8 mile portion of Minnehaha. I-94 and Augsburg College block many streets and avenues in this area.

    Incidentally, one long time issue at the intersection has been northbound motorists turning left from the right hand lane to reach Cedar rather than continue straight to 20th as required by signage.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary February 7, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

      Sorry, that’s 22nd Street I’m talking about, not 22nd Avenue.

      This is how you’d get to EB 94 from NB Minnehaha. They’re also adding a left-turn lane from SB Cedar to EB 22nd St, which is currently right-in-right-out only. This makes the opposite movement possible as well.

  12. David Markle
    David Markle February 7, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

    Then the best way to get to EB 94 from NB Minnehaha would be to take EB Franklin to 26th Ave, then EB on 9th St. to the EB I-94 entrance on Riverside Ave.

    But to get to NB Cedar from NB Minnehaha, you’d have to go east on 22nd St, then take a left, then another difficult left onto WB Franklin, unless you went to 26th Ave. and round about as I described above. (And I think 9th St. is an EB one-way, isn’t it?)

    Sounds like it’s going to become more difficult for me to get to and from United Noodle and Cub Foods.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary February 7, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

      To get from NB Minnehaha to NB Cedar, you’d do that same movement I illustrated above (only, don’t turn on 94). The only left turn involved is off of Minnehaha onto 22nd St — a pretty easy turn.

      The only thing that seems tricky is getting from NB Minnehaha to SB Cedar. But you could do as sketched out, only do a U-turn at Franklin instead of proceeding straight.

  13. David Markle
    David Markle February 7, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

    Sean, now that I’ve followed your linked sketch, I see that there would be a NEW way to turn LEFT from NB Minnehaha onto 22nd St., then a right on Cedar. A question remains, how to easily get to SB Minnehaha from SB 20th Avenue/Franklin? The same as at present? And how would one best get from Minnehaha south of Franklin to SB Cedar? Go to 28th St.?

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary February 7, 2016 at 9:47 pm #

      From SB 20th Ave to SB Minnehaha Ave:
      1. Going SB on 20th ave, proceed straight through the light at Franklin Ave
      2. At 22nd St, turn left to go EB on 22nd St (using the left-turn cut-through that this project will build)
      3. Turn right to go SB on Minnehaha Ave

      From NB Minnehaha Ave to SB Cedar Ave:
      1. Going NB on Minnehaha Ave, turn left to go WB on 22nd St
      2. At Cedar Ave, turn right to go NB
      3. At Franklin Ave, make a U-turn. (With the left-turn lane, wide median, and two SB lane, it should be a smooth movement for almost any passenger car)
      4. You are now on SB Cedar Ave