The Resurfacing and Restriping of Franklin Avenue SE – A Review

We don’t do enough street reviews on streets.mn. I aim to help rectify that gap.

The neighborhood of Prospect Park in Minneapolis has recently experienced the trauma of a road resurfacing. Franklin Avenue SE, which forms the East-West spine through the neighborhood (map), usually connecting old Minneapolis west of the River with St. Paul east has now reopened. (The Franklin Avenue Mississippi River Bridge remains under construction. This will warrant a separate review by someone).  Now recovering, we can evaluate what has changed.

What was one of the worst roads in Minneapolis in terms of ride quality is now significantly better. My perception of Minneapolis roads, warped by the road I use most often, has gone from a grade of F to B. The road is smooth, far smoother than before, with the patchwork of patches now a continuous solid surface. It still feels a bit lumpy to drive on, but clearly it is an improvement. Maybe it’s my suspension, but I think laying asphalt in hot weather is less than ideal conditions.

Most of the pedestrian crossings along the resurfaced section were rebuilt to comply with modern ADA

This curb cut was not improved.

This curb cut was not improved.

standards, EXCEPT,  the worst one at Franklin SE and Arthur Ave SE. Was it forgotten, or was it so bad (because the grade was so steep) that there was no point in fixing it anyway. Or were Minnesotans just cheap?

The road was mostly restriped for bike lanes. Some on-street parking was removed. It is now continuous with the section of Franklin Avenue in St. Paul (which runs from the city line to Eustis street, before it just gives up at the Mn 280 interchange). Props to St. Paul for getting a bike lane done before Minneapolis, this is rare.

There is a nice set of green striping and bike box at the intersection of Franklin Ave/27th Ave/West River

The green painted road

Follow the green painted road

Road. Which is the best you can do if you insist upon signaling rather than a roundabout.

Bike lane in front of Francis Cabrini is striped eastbound, not westbound. A confident bicyclist takes the road anyway.

Bike lane in front of Francis Cabrini is striped eastbound, not westbound. A confident bicyclist takes the road anyway, having accumulated much speed going downhill.

I did say “mostly restriped.” The section in front of St. Francis Cabrini Church was striped going uphill (eastbound), but not striped southbound (westbound). Stripes resume just west of Thornton Street. I can speculate about city-church politics, and the need for parking. Let me just suggest the bike lane is a pointed gun*, shooting bicyclists quickly down the road, to mix with traffic for a one block section before they return to the dignity of their own lane. Perhaps the idea is that this bike lane gap will shame someone into backing down or putting in some money and fixing it properly. If I were a betting man however, I would bet in five years the gap is still there.

The lane ends at the railroad tracks (just east of the church). If these abandoned tracks were to become a maintained trail towards the University of Minnesota, this might be an acceptable place to end it. As it stands now, the tracks are merely attracting weeds and broken glass.

The Bridge over I-94 on Franklin Avenue is striped, though there is a gap between the bike lane and sidewalk on the northern (westbound) side of the bridge. This keeps the bike lane straight. It denies the lane an opportunity for a protected section.

To be clear, the bike lane is striped, in a few places there is a small buffer where there is extra pavement. There are no barrier protections, not even plastic bollards. I am sure I don’t feel comfortable with my kids riding on this street, even with the lane, because of the lack of protection. It is probably fine for spandex wearing bicyclists however. Concrete curbs would help, but of course reduce flexibility for drivers who might need to use the bike lane to swerve for some reason (even if slowly), as well as road maintenance workers or wide trucks. One of the proposals early on would have had both bike lanes on one side of the road, so they could be protected, but wide enough to run a pickup truck on for snow clearance. This didn’t happen.

Another bicyclist with kid still chooses to use the sidewalk rather than the new bike lane.

Another bicyclist with kid still chooses to use the sidewalk rather than the new bike lane.

The one property which had no driveway access before construction was given a driveway, and a brick car landing was constructed on their property. Apparently city staff opposed this, because code? I am glad to see this actually happen. I am happy my neighbors cared enough, and had enough free time, to turn out. Yet, something so obvious should not require 15 people to show up at a meeting.

 

This property now has a driveway and a place to park off-street

This property now has a driveway and a place to park off-street

 


* The pointed gun metaphor is something I learned as a planner, when the DOT would widen a road upstream of a bottleneck, inducing more demand, and pointing even more cars at the bottleneck, it was like loading a gun. The road is a gun, the cars are the bullets in this metaphor. The bullets (drivers) have some agency, though they are fairly well predictable in the aggregate. This is not the kind of thing staff would say in public of course. The intent of loading the gun was to force the issue of widening the bottleneck, which was a bottleneck because of some physical or social constraint, like a neighborhood using the street as their shopping district.


Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

, , , , , ,

16 Responses to The Resurfacing and Restriping of Franklin Avenue SE – A Review

  1. Jeremy August 16, 2016 at 9:17 am #

    “If these abandoned tracks were to become a maintained trail towards the University of Minnesota, this might be an acceptable place to end it. As it stands now, the tracks are merely attracting weeds and broken glass.”

    The railroad ROW here is likely going to become the first segment of the Prospect Park Trail. There is a CBR for it, the 2nd Ward office has been negotiating the acquisition, and USDOT is aware of it, indeed, held an I-94 workshop recently that addressed it.

    I believe the area across the street from St. Frances is not striped because this is an MSA route and there are State rules about what kind of striping could happen here. There isn’t sufficient room for a separate lane, and the ADT count is too high to allow for a bike boulevard or sharrow marking, so the City had to leave it as-is. Having some kind of markings there would certainly help, though. An advisory bike lane would be ideal. Allowing for church parking on the weekends was key to getting this bike lane to happen.

    Hopefully we’ll see this first segment of the Prospect Park Trail happen soon. Connecting Franklin to Essex would be great. It’d also be great if Essex had a contra-flow bike lane so that people riding through Glendale and over to the Oak St PBL had a direct connection by bike. As it is, getting over to Stadium Village from Prospect Park is circuitous.

  2. Serafina August 16, 2016 at 10:49 am #

    The real test of Franklin will come once the bridge opens and traffic returns to previous levels. For now, I’ve been enjoying the ease of crossing Franklin safely, which I do maybe 4-6 times a day.

    I’m also disappointed in the lack of improvement to accessing the Oval at Franklin and Bedford. With the bus stop and public green space there, as well as the neighborhood freecycle corner, it is unfortunate that no pedestrian improvements were made there.

    Currently, my 8-year-old is using and loving the new bike lanes, but that may change once the bridge reopens.

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke August 16, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    Thanks for writing this. It must be a massive improvement because this street was a bear for bicycling for many years.

  4. Janne Flisrand
    Janne August 16, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    “I am sure I don’t feel comfortable with my kids riding on this street, even with the lane, because of the lack of protection. It is probably fine for spandex wearing bicyclists however.”

    The false equivalency you create of people either biking with kids or being the ever-hated ‘spandex-wearing bicyclists’ is tired. My first bike commute, ever, in 1996 was up and down this stretch of Franklin. I was wearing traditional work clothes. I was comfortable taking the lane — in a much more hostile bike world than exists in Minneapolis today.

    The hyperbole you use suggest that anyone not comfortable in the lane is like a child, and anyone in the lane is a jerk.

    Please stop hating on those spandex-wearers, please don’t shame the not-totally-comfortable.

    And, please keep writing street reviews!

    • jeffk August 16, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

      I just want to second this. The folks who demand ever increasing complexity of bike infrastructure and who don’t seem to be willing to try biking until there is separated lanes on every street would do well by themselves and their cause to dip their toes in the water and give it a try using the streets we have. It’s fine to ask for better but the most compelling argument that can be made is more bikers. I suspect that, for many people, if they just forced themselves to do it for a week they’d discover it’s really not that scary.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman August 16, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

        I tried it on 2nd Ave N. (making a loop with Victory and Weber Parkways). I felt so unsafe with being near car doors and only a millimeter of paint between me and cars that I’ve never been on an unprotected lane since.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller August 16, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

        Hm. It’s not that scary depending on when and where you try it. I wouldn’t send a novice out on Portland during evening rush hour even with the buffered bike lane, for example, because the fast cars are indeed scary even if they’re supposed to be well out of the way. And I don’t generally bike on Bloomington, even though it’s wide enough, there’s typically only one lane of moving cars in each direction and they aren’t usually going that fast, because there’s no bike lane.

        But 15th Ave doesn’t feel scary at pretty much any time, for example. There just aren’t many cars.

        Anyway, I think more and better bike infrastructure is essential to more bikes, even though it’s ultimately reaching a critical mass of bikes that will provide the actual safety and not necessarily the infrastructure.

    • Justin August 16, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

      +1

      I also find that the oft-maligned “Spandex warriors” that are hated by drivers, as well as some slower cyclists, are generally pretty safe and considerate.

  5. David Markle
    David Markle August 16, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    These sound like good changes, but; I haven’t been on that part of Franklin since the bridge was closed for reconstruction. One way or another, I’m sure that Franklin Avenue in Prospect Park remains a pleasantly shady thoroughfare through a residential area, awkwardly narrow for the amount of traffic it must bear–a situation worsened by the partial disabling of the Washington Avenue bridge for the Green Line.

    • Peter Bajurny August 16, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

      I’m sure if the Met Council were elected this would be less of a problem?

    • Joey Senkyr
      Joey Senkyr August 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

      I’m having a really hard time thinking of an origin-destination pair where the former best route would have been through campus on Washington, and the new best route crosses the river on Franklin instead of 10th Ave,I-35W, or I-94.

      Now, removing lanes from the I-94 bridge to let the train cross there, that would have pushed a bunch of traffic to Franklin.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman August 16, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

        Could be a domino effect. Some traffic that would have used Washington is now using I-94, increasing the congestion problem there, so some of the more local I-94 traffic is now using the Franklin Bridge.

      • Nick Minderman August 16, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

        I lived in Prospect Park for a short time a few years ago (during green line construction, actually) and my anecdotal observation is that traffic on Franklin in SE is driven by 94. People bail off at Riverside going EB and divert across the river or 280 going westbound. When 94 was flowing well, Franklin was pretty calm. But when 94 was at a standstill in both directions (most common in the mid-late afternoon), Franklin was a nightmare because of all the traffic spilling over onto the Franklin bridge from both directions.

    • Evan Roberts
      Evan Roberts August 16, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

      “Awkwardly narrow for the amount of traffic it must bear”: That’s just nonsense. Franklin Ave through Prospect Park carries ~6,000 vehicles a day on average. The roadway is in many places 32 feet wide, which was actually really wide since it was too narrow for 2 lanes + 2 parking lanes, thus creating 16 foot lanes in stretches. With the bike lanes there are perfectly safe 10 foot drive lanes and some bike lanes, the striping for which might at least create the illusion of narrower lanes.

      That’s the missed opportunity of not having a real protected bike lane.

  6. David Markle
    David Markle August 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

    I’m writing here as a West Banker. During rush hour, I-94 is generally an awful way to get to or from the West Bank. And with the street reconfiguration on Cedar, look at how bad it often becomes within the neighborhood as well!

    I’m not fighting bike lanes. The narrowness of Franklin on the hill becomes painfully most obvious in the winter season. Maybe parking should be permanently removed with the addition of bike lanes. We’ll see how it goes when the bridge reopens..

    An elected Met Council might have done a far more sensible and transparent job planning and routing the Green Line. The higher infrastructure costs of the University Avenue route took away the money for the traffic tunnel beneath Washington Ave. SE on Campus, thus resulting in the substantial disabling of the bridge for automotive traffic.

    Perhaps LRT on the I-94 bridge could be elevated, but so far as I know the earlier I-94 Central Corridor LRT plan never called for such a crossing. Keep in mind that the most substantial part of Green Line usage seems to be centered on the University and Minneapolis, not St. Paul. (As ultimately realized, it seems that for most travelers it’s too slow a way to get to and from Minneapolis from most destinations in St. Paul.)

  7. Ethan Fawley
    Ethan Fawley August 16, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

    I’m hopeful we can fix that bike lane gap once the new State Aid Standards allow it in that spot (expecting early next year; blog post coming on that). I appreciate that project staff were interested in solving that and frustrated that our archaic state standards got in the way yet again.

    Thanks for the review and interest!