A Modest Proposal Regarding the Skyways

Sam Newberg’s recent streets.mn post arguing for the destruction of the skyways crossing Nicollet Mall could not have been more wrong-headed. The skyways are not only a critical piece of infrastructure that make Minneapolis a great place to work and live, they are also a key piece of our Minnesota identity. Tear down the skyways? We might as well drain our 10,000 lakes. No, what Minneapolis really needs is more skyways. Many, many more skyways.

Look, we live in Minnesota. Aside from the the few days each year when it’s 70º and sunny, with a light breeze, this place is an uninhabitable hellscape. The very idea of setting foot outside between October and May gives me the chills. Thankfully, skyways provide a welcome shelter from the unforgiving Minnesota outdoors.

And that’s great, as long as you’re content to live your life downtown. But Minneapolis has so much more to offer! There are the hip entertainment districts in Uptown and Northeast, the natural beauty of Minnehaha Falls. Unfortunately, for most of the year there’s just no reasonable way to get to any these places. Until now.

I propose a dramatic buildout of the skyway system so that the benefits of these amazing pieces of infrastructure move beyond downtown Minneapolis to encompass the entire city. Want to have dinner at Burch before catching a show at the Guthrie, and then head up to 612Brew in Northeast for some post-theater drinks? There’s a skyway for that.

Finally, the ability to enjoy Minnehaha Falls from the comfort of a skyway.

Finally, the ability to enjoy Minnehaha Falls from the comfort of a skyway. [Photos: Creative Commons/Krista Kennedy and Adam Fagen]

Now, obviously, this would be great for Minneapolis. But what if you don’t live in Minneapolis? Commuters from the many Twin Cities suburbs are faced every day with the dangerous task of stepping outside and into their heated cars for a drive into the city followed by another harrowing transition back indoors before they are again safely ensconced in the skyway system. By simply extending the skyway network to reach as far as say, Wayzata, this needless risk could be avoided.

As for the challenge of covering the 11 miles between the two cities in an efficient manner, the solution already exists: Segways.

The benefits to all citizens of our region brought by skyway expansion are self evident, but I’ll be the first to admit that this plan comes with a major downside. To wit: expanding the skyways will of course greatly increase the system’s popularity, and as the passageways become congested with tens of thousands of daily users (not to mention the Segways) any mobility benefit will be negated. But here, again, the answer should be obvious and it is — again — more skyways. Enter the superskyway.

By constructing a second tier of skyways ten stories above the existing system, we can help relieve congestion in the system. The high-altitude superskyways would be expensive to build, but that cost could be easily defrayed by charging a small user fee — also ensuring that superskyways are only used by the people who really value them. For, say, $50 per month, citizens could use key cards to access the high-speed elevators up to skyway level two, where they would enjoy much less heavily trafficked passageways — not to mention the terrific views!

Behold: the superskyway. [Photo

Behold: the superskyway. [Photo: Creative Commons/David Levinson]

It is distressing to think that at a time when, with minor civic commitment, Minneapolis could be building the skyway system it deserves — the system it needs — writers on this website are arguing to cut it off at its kneecaps. I hope your readers will see reason and line up behind the only true vision for a vibrant Minneapolis for all: skyways for everyone, skyways forever.

Tom Nehil

About Tom Nehil

Tom Nehil lives in the Wedge in Minneapolis and mostly gets around by bike. He works at MinnPost.