Removing the Cedar Ave Bridge: Now Is The Time

Cedar Avenue over Lake Nokomis

Cedar Avenue over Lake Nokomis

Back in 2012, Reuben Collins wrote about the the Cedar Ave bridge over Lake Nokomis, “a clear example of a roadway that went over when it should have gone around.”

Fast forward to 2014, and there’s a revision underway to the Park Board’s master plan for Nokomis Hiawatha Regional Park (well, everything except Hiawatha Golf Course, which Bill talked about in a previous article).

Like Reuben, I live close to Lake Nokomis, Lake Hiawatha, and Minnehaha Creek. My wife and I use these parks all the time, biking around the lake to wind down after work and sometimes taking a swim on warm days to cool off. But the lake is not connected to our neighborhoods as it should be.

The Cedar Ave Bridge over Lake Nokomis was a planning blunder, and the time is here to fix our mistake: The Park Board should urge Hennepin County to remove this bridge.

The Cedar problem

Cedar Ave is a physical and psychological barrier disconnecting neighborhoods from these amenities: The intersection at Minnehaha Pkwy, with beg buttons and cars turning across bicyclists with the right of way, isn’t great. Nor is it pleasant to hit beg buttons and cross two stoplights just to bike all the way around Lake Nokomis. It’s not just park amenities which are cut off: I often see people struggling to cross on foot to get to their neighborhood grocery store or other businesses along Cedar.

The transition of Cedar Ave from freeway to neighborhood street, across Lake Nokomis. Photo by Bill Lindeke.

The transition of Cedar Ave from freeway to neighborhood street, across Lake Nokomis. Photo by Bill Lindeke / Twin City Sidewalks.

But ultimately the bridge defiles Lake Nokomis. It defines perception of the lake in historical photos, and in events such as the Twin Cities Marathon, Lifetime Triathlon, and US Pond Hockey Championships that showcase our wonderful neighborhood to folks from all over the world. It defines the viewshed of the park from the Nokomis Knoll Residential Historic District. It compounds the environmental impact of the incessant noise of airplanes heading to or from the parallel runways at MSP a half mile south, which already defines our wonderful lake as an “other” in the minds of many in our City of Lakes.

Cedar Avenue is a critical component of our South Minneapolis street grid, and that’s a good thing. But Cedar Ave viewed as an extension of the 77 Freeway which technically ends at the Crosstown but continues, at least psychologically, thanks to this bridge.

Bridge background

MNHS photo

MNHS photo

Interestingly enough, this concrete girder bridge is not a naturally occurring feature.

Cedar Avenue is a street administered as a county roadway, County State Aid Highway 152. Therefore, the folks in Medina would need to sign off on removal of the bridge – and they’d probably put up a fight.

But Cedar Avenue was bridged during a different era, an era before we had regional freeway connectivity. Park/Portland, Cedar, and Hiawatha were considered routes to get into and out of the core of our city, but we now have Interstate 35W. And, with the upcoming 35W Access project, we will have an entirely new (less than decade old) freeway from Downtown to the Crosstown. Shouldn’t that give us some breathing room to take back our parks and our streets?

Even Theodore Wirth was opposed to bridging Lake Nokomis. From Minneapolis Park history:

The Cedar Avenue Bridge at the bottom of the aerial photo was the subject of great debate […] in the 1910s. Park superintendent Theodore Wirth’s plan for the improvement of Lake Nokomis in the 1912 annual report included rerouting Cedar Avenue around the southwest corner of the lake to eliminate a “very unsightly” wooden bridge over the edge of lake at the time.

Proposed freeway as mapped by Adam Froehlig. Click to see his full map and history.

Proposed freeway as mapped by Adam Froehlig. Click to see his full map and history.

Beginning in the late 1940s, Cedar Avenue (then a southward extension of Hwy 36) was scheduled to become a freeway. contributor Adam Froehlig has an excellent overview of this plan on his personal page including a nice map. By 1970, the freeway plan was scrapped, but according to its record at it was still decided to replace the bridge in 1984.

It’s time

It’s not too late to remove the bridge. It may not happen tomorrow, but the Nokomis Hiawatha Regional Park master plan can include an official call to do what Theodore Wirth would want done: Remove the Cedar Avenue bridge over Lake Nokomis.

For more fun history, check out this article from Nokomis East Neighborhood Association. It includes photos of the glow-in-the-dark shrimp, a B-1 submarine, and giant observation balloons that were all introduced to Lake Nokomis during WWII.

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53 thoughts on “Removing the Cedar Ave Bridge: Now Is The Time

  1. Sean Hayford Oleary

    In general, I agree, the bridge is perhaps too great a deference to an auto-oriented grid.

    However, some points of contention:

    CSAH 152 Cedar is more about local (perhaps inter-municipal) access, whereas 35W is about regional or interstate access. It makes sense to take 35W to Burnsville or Northfield or Albert Lea. But if you’re going from your home to the Cedar Point Home Depot (just after Cedar becomes a freeway), obviously Cedar is your route.

    Since those kinds of trips will need to be accommodated in some way, I have to wonder how that happens without other adverse effects on Lake Nokomis. Like, if Cedar/CSAH 152 ran on W Lake Nokomis Parkway, that would make that portion of the lake a lot less pleasurable to walk or bike around.

    Maybe that’s worth the trade-off. A much more expensive option (but perhaps more realistic, since it would benefit motorists) would be to convert the bridge to a tunnel. That would allow the Cedar Freeway to be extended to just north of Lake Nokomis, avoid routing traffic around the lake, and allow the bridge to be removed.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele Post author

      I think it’s fair to say urban freeways, except those used to get around metropolitan areas, do not serve an interstate mobility purpose. That’s why Eisenhower was so upset and felt so duped when he realized the Federal Highway Act was paying 90% of costs for expensive urban freeway miles that served planner’s other purposes such as “slum removal” or building walls between white and black neighborhoods (this is how the location of the Dan Ryan Expressway was chosen in Chicago).

      35W in its current form is definitely a regional connector, and a high volume one. It connects the southern metro to Downtown Mpls and beyond. But there are still plenty of people who take 77 to Cedar Ave to 46th St to Park/Portland for their commuting. I don’t think we should go out of our way to accommodate that.

      Even with the bridge removed, I’d still be able to make my plentiful trips to the Cedar Point Home Depot without problem. But it may encourage fewer people to use Cedar Ave as a reliever to 35W.

      1. Sean Hayford Oleary

        Having driven Cedar southbound many times at morning rush hour, I’ve yet to notice any significant mass of NB cars turning left on 46th. I think it is worth underscoring your point that the original bridge was built before there were freeways, long before the southern portion of Cedar Ave was a freeway. Should we remove local street connectivity because we now have freeways to handle more through traffic?

        And judging by the way Minnehaha Pkwy and W River Rd look at rush hour, I’d say having to drive on a parkway is not overly discouraging to an auto commuter…

      2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        Not sure I follow. Granted, I sometimes take Cedar as a reliever to 35W, because I hate driving on freeways in rush hour traffic (which thankfully I use rarely), but I’m not sure the goal really should be to funnel all cars onto the freeways rather than try to disperse it over multiple route options. To me people using Cedar (or Lyndale or whatever) instead of 35W is a good thing.

        The issue, of course, is whether its worth maintaining a bridge over a lake. Don’t know.

  2. Nicole

    I’m not, in theory, opposed to this idea. I live on the east side of Nokomis, and find Cedar a huge barrier to our enjoyment of biking/walking the lake (but I find Cedar a barrier generally, as it’s a busy street to cross).

    However, if the bridge were removed, how does traffic move through the neighborhood? There are a series of curvy not-through streets to the west that put you in a lot of “you can’t get there from here” places. How do we not turn these residential streets into car collectors? Would you reconnect the grid south of the parkway where the frontage road currently runs? I’d like to see this idea more fleshed out before advocating that it be part of the new master plan for our lakes.

    PS The bike route to/from Target/Home Depot requires us to go the wrong way on a one-way for a block and a half and/or ride the sidewalks and/or go more than a mile out of our way. There are some serious connectivity issues around the south side of the lake.

    1. Sean Hayford Oleary

      This will be fixed next year! Well, not the detour to get around the Crosstown interchange. But the southbound Old Cedar one-way will be narrowed to make room for a new bike trail on the west side of the road (connecting to the Nokomis/Grand Rounds trail). The trail will run along Old Cedar/E 60th St to the Bloomington Ave bridge, where it will run across the bridge, through Taft Park, and along Bloomington Ave/Richfield Parkway back to Old Cedar Avenue. The final route will connect across the Long Meadow Bridge (aka Old Cedar Avenue bridge) and into Burnsville.

      Still a bit of winding around to cross the freeway, but it will feel much more continuous and comfortable than it is today.

      1. Nicole

        Well look at that! I had to google to find the actual map of the plan, but that’s the route we currently take. Everyone once in a while…

        Mostly I feel like I live in the “forgotten corner” of Minneapolis. It’s nice when we get a little attention once in a while. (But not too much…don’t want to clue too many people in on our hidden gem!)

        1. Sean Hayford Oleary

          There is talk of widening the Crosstown to 6 lanes between Cedar and 35W. At such time, I am hopeful that Richfield and Minneapolis are both aggressive about getting improved neighborhood connections through this area. Sound walls are a given for any reconstruction in this kind of context, but it would be great if there were something like a land bridge to connect Solomon and Taft parks, and particularly provide better continuity for the two City of Minneapolis blocks south of Crosstown.

  3. Dave P

    Are you suggesting the alternative of modifying Lake Nokomis Parkway to handle the traffic? Beyond re-opening Lake Nokomis as an uninterrupted bike path (many pedestrians simply use the bridge side walk) and reducing costs, I’d think there might be some unintended negative side effects. Particularly trapping the users of that section of the park on a narrow piece of land between the lakes and heavy traffic.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele Post author

      If West Nokomis Parkway would be the de facto replacement, we would need to study what the implications would be and mitigate them. But I’m hopeful we can just eliminate some of the traffic. It’s induced demand, but in reverse.

      This section of Cedar carries as much traffic per day as some sections of Hiawatha Ave. That’s appalling, IMO. The answer is not to welcome that traffic somewhere else, unless that somewhere else is 62/35W heading to downtown.

  4. Reuben CollinsReuben Collins

    Since an old post of mine is linked to in the post, I want to clarify that I don’t think removing the bridge without a very clear understanding of how the major traffic flows will react to that is a good idea. I think the connection between Cedar Ave and TH-77 is pretty important to the neighborhood, and I think any option should continue to facilitate that movement.

    I think some basic improvements to the bridge (like bumpouts & construction of sidewalks where there are clear desire paths) could go a long way to improving the situation. I’d love to see a redesign of the TH-77 ramps south of the lake.

    1. Sean Hayford Oleary

      The bridge deck itself could be made more pleasurable as well — like replacing the tall freeway lights with ped-scale parkway lighting, and perhaps installing some glass above the railing level to control noise.

      The lack of sidewalk (especially on the west side) between Nokomis Parkway and the bridge is kind of baffling.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        Here’s an idea I had a year or two ago:

        A new SPUI interchange at 62/77, with directional ramps pushing much of the downtown traffic over to 35W:

        A significantly calmed and rebuilt Cedar Ave from 58th St north, including a roundabout south of the lake. Then West Nokomis Pkwy could be rebuilt to connect with 54th Street at a roundabout, which would disperse cars more evenly through the neighborhoods along 54th, Bloomington, and West Nokomis Pkwy to Cedar Ave.

        Even though the neighborhood dislikes Cedar, I’m sure there would be heavy resistance to pushing any of that traffic onto other streets. But hopefully with enough traffic calming on our neighborhood streets, coupled with pushing more regional traffic over to 35W, we could mitigate that problem.

        1. Sean Hayford Oleary

          I’ll also share my map, which takes things a little further. (Zoom in to get a better sense.) I’d make 66th St the main freeway connection to CSAH 152 Cedar Ave, making the interchange itself only serve the Crosstown. If coming from the south, you would exit at 66th to go into S Mpls on Cedar. If coming from the north, you would follow a new, meandering parkway. An upgraded Crosstown between 35W and Cedar, including a land bridge, would accommodate regional traffic.

          This would better unite Richfield and that tiny segment of Minneapolis with the other neighborhoods. It would also provide better access to the Cedar Point commercial area and 66th.

          1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

            that’s a cool idea – basically making Richfield Pkwy/Bloomington the extension of Cedar Ave, and then 77/62 can be full freeway to freeway. I like that too.

  5. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

    I recall some time in the late 1980s or early 90s (my mental playlist of bands like Poison, Def Leppard and Guns & Roses comes to mind), the northeast side of Lake Nokomis became a really popular cruising location. On weekends the parkway was gridlock as young people hung out on the hill near the rec center and drove by. I recall the press coverage at the time as characterizing the traffic as coming from Apple Valley. How accurate that is would be interesting to know, but it’s not too far-fetched since there is an expressway from Apple Valley to the south shore of the lake, and a big bridge to get across, so we shouldn’t be too surprised.

    The solution? The park board closed the road (and planted native grasses on the hill where the kids hung out). This eliminated the traffic problem and in many ways the traffic just went away.

    It would be far too simplistic to assume the same result if we took out the Cedar Avenue bridge. As other commenters have pointed out, the access to and from highway 77 would also have to be augmented somewhat.

    That said, for all the commuters and others who use the Cedar Avenue bridge to get from the Mall of America and places south to downtown, we have spent more than $1 billion since the latest Cedar Avenue bridge was built in the 1980s to encourage other options. Light rail, BRT, HOV lanes and access, new bus routes, and just additional lanes on 35W. Considering that cost, shouldn’t we save ourselves a little tax money and not replace the bridge next time it comes up?

    I think this is a very good idea, particularly as a way to honor the legacy and long term intent of the wonderful Minneapolis Parks system.

  6. Froggie

    Some comments:

    – Sean’s proposal to connect Richfield Pkwy with Cedar Ave seems like a lot of extra park excavation, though it would be a way to tie the neighborhoods near Nokomis to the commercial cluster along Richfield Pkwy which is what I believe some of the traffic flow is doing, though I can’t imagine Minneapolis wanting to send retail dollars to Richfield. I could see this being a possibility if his “Cedar Ave Parkway” more closely followed both Bloomington Ave and 60th St. Lastly, Sean’s graphic doesn’t show how he plans to connect westbound 62 to southbound 77.

    – Matt’s proposal has a notable issue with his proposed direct ramp from northbound 77 to westbound 62…the geometry at the 62 merge is all wrong. It would either have to come in as a left-side merge, adjacent to the Cedar Ave ramp merge (FHWA frowns upon left-side merges, and having two ramps merge onto the mainline in such a close spacing goes against design standards), or it would have to bridge over 62 AND Bloomington Ave and merge with 62 farther downstream. Either way, you’re taking out a lot of those trees and would probably have to take out a couple houses at 61st and 15th as well. I’d do something closer to this:

    – For both Sean and Matt’s proposals, a “land bridge” at Bloomington Ave just isn’t possible due to topography. You can’t bury 62 because of the water table and adjacent Taft Lake, and to raise such a bridge over 62 would take out a lot of existing trees because of the side slopes needed.

    – I grew up in this area. In fact, learned how to hit a golf ball from the edge of that Bloomington Ave overpass.

    – Everyone should keep in mind that this bridge was completely replaced in 1985. Any potential need for “replacement” is at least 20 years away, and more likely 40-50 years away. Another note to keep in mind is that the original bridge was built before this was even part of Minneapolis.

    – A note Matt made earlier about traffic volumes is in error. The busiest segment of Cedar Ave (coincidentally the segment in question in this article) has a little over 19K AADT. By comparison, the least busy segment of Hiawtha (between 38th and 46th) has just under 23K AADT.

    – Though I don’t have detailed Origin-Destination data, a review of area traffic volumes shows that, of the traffic on Cedar Ave just north of the Crosstown, at least 1/3 of it turns off Cedar before 46th. Roughly another 1/6 turns off of Cedar between 46th and 38th. North of 38th towards downtown, overall traffic levels pick up again, but it stands to reason that there is a lot of traffic turning on and off of Cedar overall that can’t be easily read just looking at traffic volumes. This suggests to me 2 things: A) not a lot of traffic runs the entire length of Cedar Ave, though it’s hard to say exactly how much; and B) Cedar is largely used by south Minneapolis residents with both an origin and destination in south Minneapolis, or by south Minneapolis residents heading south to Richfield or beyond.

    The point is that, while you may get some traffic to divert to 35W as Matt suggests, it won’t be a lot. (B) especially speaks to the need to keep Cedar connected to 77 South.

    – Rerouting Cedar along West Lake Nokomis Pkwy is an option, but runs into issues of its own. Residents north of 54th would likely be opposed, and I can also see residents south of 54th also being opposed as they have long felt there’s already too much cut-through traffic. Given you’d be going right through existing parkland, there would be Section 4(F) impacts. As Cedar is both a designated city truck route and has buses, you couldn’t just use the existing parkway…you’d have to rebuild and widen it (by widen, I’m referring to pavement width, not number of lanes). You’d also be adding a huge volume of traffic. Even if you figure a 10% diversion factor to 35W and a 50% traffic elimination factor, you’d still have a section of existing parkway with over 10K AADT. The closest existing equivalent is that section of East Lake Calhoun Pkwy that’s coincident with Richfield Rd (between 36th and the south end of the lake). You’d effectively be turning W Lake Nokomis Pkwy into that if you remove the Cedar Ave bridge.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Thanks for your thoughts on our little “charette”. I appreciate the comments about the water table, but is it really impossible to build up? There’s a small cluster of trees at the NW corner of Bloomington and Crosstown today, but the actual parkland is all north of 60th/Old Cedar. I’m assuming the freeway could be capped for a short distance there without impacting Solomon Park itself — and not taking out too many trees on the NW corner of Taft Lake.

      Doing a full land bridge — versus just an improved overpass — would do much more to unite this parkland, as well as bridge the two Minneapolis blocks with the rest of South Minneapolis. That it also creates a prominent connection to a Richfield commercial district is a trade-off (if you think of it that way), but the connectivity between parks and cohesiveness of Minneapolis seems worth it. That said, I’m not sure why Minneapolis should try to discourage traffic to big box stores across the border. Home Depot and Target are relatively low-value land uses that presumably they’d just as soon have taking up space in a different jurisdiction.

      The other main benefit to realigning Cedar to Bloomington/Richfield Parkway is that it creates developable land on the east side of Cedar between Lake Nokomis and the Crosstown (in addition to making existing establishments on the west side more accessible).

      Access from WB Crosstown to SB TH 77 is a gap in my little sketch, admittedly. As I marked it, folks would be directed to exit at 28th Ave, and would have to meander around for quite a while to make it to SB 77/Cedar. This could be accommodated either by keeping both north-side “loops” of the existing interchange — but obviously that would damage the efficiency of the new NB 77 to 35W dedicated lane.

      Also, Froggie: what are your thoughts on Matt’s proposal, without the flyunder ramp? What if it were just a SPUI? I’d note that some other freeway termini have their final interchange with lights — like the relatively new interchange at Crosstown and 494. Although not technically a freeway, a SPUI also replaced a cloverleaf on the Olson Highway at TH 100. I’m not sure if that can handle the flows needed — but it would definitely more clearly demarcate the freeway-street divide on Cedar Avenue.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        I think I had the same idea as Sean… not a land bridge at grade with the adjoining parks, but basically a bridge that has more vegetation and screening than a basic bridge. Comparable in context, but not in scale, to how Minnehaha Pkwy crosses Hiawatha+LRT.

        Also, the ramp from NB 77 to WB 62 does indeed merge on the RH side of 62. The purpose of these directional ramps is to give the cue that there’s continuity to/from 35W and 77. This is critical since the section currently has choke points entering the short stretch of 4 lane 62 between Portland and Cedar, and six laning it would help eliminate those choke points (clearly the Crosstown redesign was designed for future six laning). The SPUI is designed to convey the message that Cedar Ave is not an extension of TH77, and it is not a highway. We need to send this message.

        But the reason why I did not post a proposal in the article itself is because I want to identify the problem — the Cedar Ave bridge — before getting to solutioning. It’s too easy to shoot down potential solutions (drafted by amateurs, no less) and think that it discredits the problem itself. That’s not the case. The Cedar Ave bridge is clearly incompatible with good urban design, and we should recognize that. Once we recognize it, we can figure out an acceptable path forward that solves this problem.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          > “Cedar Ave is not an extension of TH77”

          But, of course, it is. Cedar Avenue has been a route from Northfield to the Mississippi River for over a hundred years. Cedar Avenue has never been — or at least not for over a century — solely a Minneapolis roadway.

          So I do think it’s worth at least ensuring the route is preserved in some way. My route proposes to do that mainly with signage (although it’s also somewhat justified that Old Cedar Ave in Richfield connects directly). I think your SPUI does it also.

          1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

            I know you and I disagree on this, but it bothers me that TH77 is signed as Cedar Ave in the south metro. It is not an avenue, it is a freeway. It could be the Cedar Freeway.

            And of course CSAH 23 switches to Galaxie Ave, Foliage Ave, and Eveleth Ave on its course to Northfield.

            1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

              Also if we’re intent on maintaining old highway approaches to cities, we might as well add lanes to Lyndale Ave S, Lake Street, West Broadway, University Ave, Dodd Rd, and all the historical streets used by highways that left town. But most of these have been superceded by the regional network of urban freeways.

              1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                I believe we have a lovely freeway spur that to this day connects 35W (which, south of the river, runs on Lyndale Avenue) to Minneapolis’s Lyndale Avenue. And some lovely stuff happening at the junction of Excelsior Blvd/TH 7/Minnetonka Blvd/Lake St.

                I’m not saying every highway must be beefed up and restored. But when we’re talking about removing an existing continuous connection, we need to consider the implications. I suspect the argument you’re proposing — continuity of these routes don’t matter, because we have a larger, newer system to handle the traffic — is similar to what might have been used to justify the removal of Nicollet at Lake St in the ’70s.

                1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

                  Removing infrastructure can be used to destroy a place. Nicollet at Lake, the street grid nearly everywhere it crosses an urban freeway, etc.

                  But removing infrastructure can also be used to build a place.

                  Also weren’t you in favor of connecting Cedar Ave to Richfield Parkway? Wouldn’t that disconnect the continuity of the street? In a way, it would make it more continuous than before by connecting it to Old (Proper) Cedar Ave.

            2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              And back to Cedar Avenue in the city limits of Northfield. The Galaxie/Foliage/Eveleth thing is a later retrofit to match the Dakota County grid.

              Obviously we’ve had the argument privately many times. To publicly restate: I see your objection, but simply because something is a freeway does not mean it should be robbed of its identity. I would rather it be a street. But a road’s identity still has importance to the communities it runs through.

              And of course, if freeways (or de-facto freeways) were to be stripped of their more romantic city street titles, I think you’d have bones to pick with Central Avenue, University Avenue, New Brighton Boulevard, and — of course — Hiawatha Avenue.

      2. Froggie

        Never replied to Sean on this. Apologies for the delay.

        – Yes, it’d be possible to “build up”, but not without taking out trees. That’s the point I was trying to make earlier. To elaborate further, because of the water table (and to a lesser extent the overpass over Cedar Ave), you can’t lower the grade on 62. But because 62 is basically flat with everything else in the immediate area, you’d have to greatly extend the Bloomington Ave overpass footprint in order to convert it into a land bridge. Any attempt to expand it west of the existing overpass would impact the copse of trees located between 15th and Bloomington (call me biased, but it’s more than just a “small cluster”). Furthermore, there’s no way you could get such a land bridge to 15th Ave without impacting houses along 15th.

        You could probably extend something about 200ft east of the overpass without impacting Taft Lake, but again you’d be impacting trees on the north side of the Crosstown, though these trees are fewer in number to what was mentioned above.

        – Matt’s proposal for a SPUI would not work without a flyover. There’s just too much traffic making the connections between 62 West and 77 South…over 41K vehicles a day based on a quick number-crunching of 2012 traffic volumes. Take that traffic out and yes a SPUI would work (though I’d probably go with a DDI instead…cheaper and no need to worry about sidewalks/peds).

        – Matt: I finally saw what you intended with the flyover, though it took zooming in. Your ramp setup was hidden by the land bridge you drew in. I just don’t see that geometry working. First, you shouldn’t merge the flyover ramp and the SPUI ramp the way you did. Second, bringing the flyover on that trajectory would A) make it a lot harder to build the land bridge (because of the need for grade separation between the flyover and the Crosstown), and B) would likely need to take out a house or two on the corner of 61st and 15th. There are better ways to design the flyover that would eliminate these impacts.

  7. Ian Bicking

    Would you rather have a layout like West Lake Street? That seems far worse to me.

    The bridge leaves the shores of Nokomis largely undisturbed – at the expense of some of the water, but the shores are better used than the water. And while there are some annoying crossings, that’s easily resolved (and crossing on the north side of the bridge doesn’t even seem problematic to me). Making the route more complicated might decrease total traffic (and reduce mobility for South Minneapolis residents) but complexity increases disruption so the returns are limited.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      My first reaction was “oh, yeah, that street is awful.” My next and more lasting reaction is: “really? you’d rather have a causeway?”

      Can you imagine if Lake Street ran straight across, cutting off the north beach of Lake Calhoun from the rest of the lake? Or if 36th Street went straight across the lake instead of going along Richfield Road?

      Although I have difficulty deciding if moving Cedar to W Lake Nokomis Parkway, when I think of the idea of a causeway across Calhoun, it makes the surface street seem like a clear winner.

      (Incidentally: Richfield Road, while not exactly a Complete Street or winning any design awards, is definitely better than W Lake St by Calhoun. It’s probably a better comparison to Cedar/Nokomis, given closer traffic counts and more similar [two-lane] roadway character.)

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        I’m sure we could bridge over Lake Calhoun from Whole Foods to Tin Fish and make the northern shore much more hospitable. I can’t imagine anyone would take that trade.

  8. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

    We should start with a Sunday closure of the Cedar Avenue bridge for an Open Streets – type event. We already close Cedar for at least one triathlon, but simply closing Cedar and letting people circle Lake Nokomis on the trails without having to stop for Cedar Avenue (twice), would give people a taste of what life would be like without the bridge.

    1. Froggie

      …until they have to cross the western parkway at 54th to get to the trail.

      Sorry…a bit biased here, as that’s where I’d connect to the trail.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        Is traffic really that bad on a Sunday? Whenever they’ve closed down Cedar due to events going on in my neighborhood (triathlon, marathon, etc) it actually goes just fine.

        1. Froggie

          The idea is to close down on a Sunday as a prelude to see how things will work before a longer-term closure. Problem is, seeing how it goes on a Sunday isn’t going to tell you what it’ll be like mid-week.

          Doesn’t matter what day of the week they do it. It’ll push enough onto the west parkway to make crossing to/from the bike path at 54th painful. Not without longer-term changes to the intersection at 54th.

  9. Kyle

    Considering the a mess just one car makes turning westbound heading into the City from 77 the first damn thing to do is to close Edgewater to westbound turns from northbound 77. Personally I think the goal should be to cul-de-sac Edgewater at Fat Lorenzos but I am not sure the local neighborhood would be in agreement. By eliminating the westbound turn onto Edgewater, you can make a left turn lane to westbound W Nokomis Parkway to help traffic continue northbound on Cedar from the rightmost lane.

    (As an aside, the merging of two lanes into one at W Nokomis Parkway and Cedar is the most polite merging of traffic anywhere I’ve ever been – it seems everyone knows their place in the merge pattern. Your mileage may vary but I drive this way quite a bit and it seems a consistent, polite merging.)

    I do like the idea of a traffic circle at W Nokomis, and Cedar- there is certainly is enough room. Divert the pedestrian and bike trail a bit farther north to the south side of the bridge for a well marked crossing and you’d have a much more controlled, friendly environment for all parties.

    This bridge is not so offensive that vehicle traffic should be diverted onto a 25MPH parkway, 20 yards from people’s front door, and a sidewalk away from parkland. Indeed, this bridge preserves EXACTLY what so many of you demand of the city – quiet, pedestrian and bike friendly local neighborhoods.

    There are very few ways out of south Minneapolis. This area shouldn’t be made more difficult to vehicles and citizens with the removal of the bridge and then routing traffic INTO the neighborhoods.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Closing off Edgewater won’t help that much, because the same situation occurs just 200 feet or so farther up, at Lake Nokomis Parkway — two travel lanes, no left-turn lane, no left-turn arrow. If it’s really desired to keep the existing design (with the TH 77 portion of Cedar dumping into CSAH 152 portion), then whatever solution would need to be implemented at both Edgewater and Nokomis Pkwy.

      Of course, with a roundabout there, that would be a nonissue. I am curious how well a busy, freeway-adjacent roundabout would interact with the trail traffic, but I guess we’ll find out soon at nearby 66th and Richfield Parkway, where they plan to route the Intercity Regional Trail across that roundabout later this year.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        Why they’ve never simply repainted the existing roadway to have left turn lanes for Edgewater and Nokomis Pkwy, with one through lane for Cedar, is beyond me.

        “This area shouldn’t be made more difficult to vehicles” and “EXACTLY what so many of you demand of the city – quiet, pedestrian and bike friendly local neighborhoods” — I don’t understand how this Cedar car sewer over the lake, which disrupts our trail system in two places, is compatible with quiet and friendly local neighborhoods — these two ideals seem at odds.

        1. Kyle

          I believe the answer is smarter traffic control and pedestrian improvements at Edgewater / Cedar and W Nokomis / Cedar, and not moving vehicles into the neighborhoods.

          I’m on the Nokomis-Hiawatha Park CAC mentioned previously and there was a comment at the first meeting about removing the bridge as part of the long term Park planning. It was the only comment that openly received scoffing and clucks. So considering that the majority of the CAC is composed of citizens living very close to Lake Nokomis any conversation surrounding increased neighborhood traffic will probably be met with protest.

          While that in itself isn’t reason not to bring up the issue for official discussion, not only did it seem like the idea had no traction within the CAC it may actually fall a bit outside of the CAC’s impact area – even though it runs right through it, the bridge seems to be technically outside of the Park. That may seem like belaboring the point but who knows bureaucracy wise what it means…… Actually, bureaucracy wise we all know what that means.

          However I will certainly bring it up again as part of the public comment process and see if there is interest for including removing the bridge in long term planning for the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park.

          1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

            Our goal shouldn’t be accommodating existing traffic elsewhere, it should be building the type of place we want — and if it’s not condusive to traffic, that traffic usually vanishes. The opposite of induced demand. And demand is going down even without us contracting our supply of infrastructure — vehicle miles traveled continues to decrease in Minneapolis and across the nation.

            It’s sad to hear there was “scoffing and clucks” at the notion of removing the bridge. It’s still true that most people love their cars above nearly all else, including parks.

        2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          I assume it is the way it is now so that the merge to one lane can happen north of the light, rather than south of it. South of the light is kind of constrained due to the ramp entering NB Cedar from WB Crosstown. Also preferable to have two through lanes through the light itself to get more cars through on one green during a congested period.

          That light itself seems to be a monument to ridiculously obtuse Minneapolis signals. It’s on a fixed timing, so the light changes even if nobody is around. It always includes a “ghost” left-turn cycle from WB Nokomis Parkway to SB Cedar, even if nobody is there who needs it. The green is also longer than Nokomis Parkway traffic usually requires. Perhaps the fixed timing would be useful for pedestrians and trail users — except that it only gives a walk cycle when the beg button is pushed, even though the green is more than long enough for a walk cycle every time. The final crowning jewel (although it appears to have been recently fixed) is that it would not give a walk signal on the north leg until after the non-conflicting protected green arrow for WB-to-SB traffic was complete.

          I think just about anyone — parkway user, motorist, and Medina engineer alike — can hate that light.

          1. Kyle

            Sean I agree with your interpretation of the current designs and I think they are spot on to the community frustrations at this intersection.

            Since there is little as ridiculous as stopping at Cedar and W Nokomis at 2am for a full signal cycle, perhaps a short term solution is a CAC recommendation to go to a flashing light after a certain time, say 10pm to 5am, at W Nokomis and Cedar?

            Does anyone know who owns the traffic signals and improvements at this intersection? The City because it’s in the city? The County because its a County road? Does the Park Board have a say because it’s on the Grand Rounds? It seems a bit nebulous based on it’s location………

            1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

              The City of Minneapolis does nearly all stoplights in the city in-house, even on county and state-owned roads. I think the only exceptions are on borders (such as the ramps for interchanges along the Crosstown).

              What about a roundabout for Cedar Ave (even if the bridge stays), Nokomis Pkwy, and Edgewater?

              1. Kyle

                Thank you – it’s always best to know who to point fingers at when talking about who is responsible for traffic control because every conversation starts with “It not our city/county/park responsibility, it’s their city/county/park. responsibility.

                Considering it’s within the Regional Park boundaries I’ll also float the idea of a roundabout for W. Nokomis and Cedar. I think it’s a good add to the long term planning discussion.

                1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

                  One thing I’d say, focus on defining the problems rather than pushing a solution. Traffic engineers (especially state and county) operate on professional values that aren’t necessarily compatible with parks or neighborhoods. And they are too focused on “rules” as reasons to shoot an idea down. That’s the reason why I didn’t propose specific solutions here, other than claiming the current bridge to be a problem. I want to work with transportation professionals and politicians to define problems and come up with good solutions, rather than throwing solutions to a group of folks who shoot them down. Good luck!

          2. Monte

            Well, one redeeming quality is has a lot of those cool 3M signal heads (I finally managed to get one of these for my own collection). But yeah, typical stupid, old-fashioned Minneapolis design. What’s more Minneapolis is still putting up new lights that don’t have sensors and flashing yellow arrows for left turn lanes. My own opinion is the parkway should be converted to a one way counterclockwise like Harriet, eliminating the left turn and leaving room for a bicycle lane along the whole length of it.

            It’s an interesting question, assuming you want to accommodate drivers rather than punish them, do you shoot them straight through with a bridge, or do you route them around the edges, impacting more area but less obviously (and we made similar choice in a project that’s notorious here over in Stillwater- shooting 4 lanes of traffic straight over the valley instead of cutting into bluffs and parkland along the river to get it closer to the existing bridge).

            We’ve already tried a non-freeway interchange where freeways meet- at County 18 and I-494 (neither MN 62 nor MN 55 are freeways and have about half the amount of traffic as 77 does). Even back then it was a traffic apocalypse.

            1. Monte

              Should add that I’m a fan of lag lefts in urban environments where it can be done without punishing cars. Nokomis could easily be a lag left so pedestrians could go right way when Cedar is stopped without impacting cars, (and a pedestrians will sometimes step into the street as soon as they see a vehicular yellow), and you could probably have a leading pedestrian phase without too much impact.

              Berry Drive and Calhoun Parkway would be another good place for a lag left, flashing yellow arrow, and leading pedestrian phase. (and microwave pedestrian sensors, or at least moving the pushbuttons so they’re ADA compliant and easier to reach on a bicycle) Generally speaking lead arrows are most beneficial for cars when you have a high volume street with a number of coordinated signals, in which case best operations for cars are with one direction as leads and one direction with lags. Now that the yellow trap is no longer an issue you’re starting to see some intersections changed to lags when coordination is implemented.

            2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              Crosstown is a freeway inside 494. Or, well, it stops freeway status a block or two east of that interchange. There is no significant drop-off before the 494 interchange. But you are right — there is far more traffic on TH 77 Cedar. Volume that continues through the interchange is comparable, however; 21k on the CSAH 62 Crosstown and 19k on CSAH 152 Cedar.

              I have mixed feelings on the flashing yellow arrows. Except in situations where it is highly desirable to have a red arrow option, they seem like a much more obnoxious version of the Left Turn Yield On Green lights, which are quite common in Minneapolis.

              Minneapolis has in fact moved toward actuated lights in many suburban areas of the city, such as along Lyndale Ave S. But some things remain stubborn — like the lights at 54th and Lyndale, where there are “ghost” left turn arrows at every cycle.

              1. Monte

                Traffic engineers are realists, not idealists. Since drivers have proven themselves too stupid to behave properly on a left turn yield on green, they introduced an obnoxious arrow to get their attention rather than hope that better training or enforcement would help. It seems to be working as expected- crashes go up slightly when a protected only signal is replaced, but down a lot when a protected/permissive one is replaced, so with a compromise in many places the increase in crashes is now acceptable compared to the immense amount of driver’s time saved. Also, if you drive to other states, we have way more protected-only turns than just about anywhere else.-the nanny state complex? Like them or not, four or five section flashing yellow arrow capable heads (whether the arrow is used initially or not) are the only type being installed by Mn/DOT on turn lanes from now on. Minneapolis and St. Paul have always done signals there own way though, so it may be a while before they follow like other local agencies have.

                BTW, if anyone wants to see my basement traffic signal display, here’s a video.

  10. Al DavisonAl Davison

    They did this to Savage Lake when 35E was built near my house in Little Canada as well (I believe in the 1960s or so). We were (and probably still are) lazy on planning when lakes are considered a barrier to having a straight road.

  11. Brett

    I live on Cedar blocks from Nokomis. I am in complete favor of removing the bridge. The amount of traffic, speed and type of traffic is unacceptable for a residential area. Trucks that shake the house, speeding etc.
    It may be a tough sell to go from bridge to no bridge, but at least there needs to be a drastic change to make other alternatives much more appealing. Reduce the speed, narrow the lanes and add a bike lane on cedar from south of Nokomis all the way to the greenway. Traffic slowing designs like center islands. Once people see 35W is much faster or other routes I believe things would improve.
    Then next step remove the bridge or cut off access to vehicles and make the bridge all pedestrian, boardwalk.
    Is there some initiative or real discussions happening to get some action started or a plan to address this?
    I am in completely, where to I sign.

  12. Liz

    Agree with Brett and also live near Cedar Ave north of Nokomis. Traffic slowing on Cedar Ave between 62 & downtown should be the primary goal. It’s a very dangerous environment for pedestrians now with fast traffic and plenty of passing on the right whenever a vehicle attempts a left turn or even happens to drive less than 35 mph. Removing the bridge could help to achieve that goal and would have the additional benefit of making Nokomis a nicer part of the Chain of Lakes.

    I’d like to see Cedar in South Minneapolis reconfigured somewhat like South Lyndale Ave. was recently – from four lanes to three, with curb bump-outs – and I’d especially like to see new pedestrian crossings and a safer pedestrian environment around 47th & Cedar at the Supervalu/Carbone’s area, just north of the parkway.

    Oh, and we could really use a bus route on Cedar (south of 35th)!

  13. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    Apparently there are some road closures in this area today due to flooding – possibly Cedar Ave across the lake. I’m going to bike down there and see how traffic is handling the diversion. Nature provided a good test lab today!

    1. Froggie

      A better “test lab” would be if the road is still closed tomorrow. And if it’s the creek that’s closed and not the lake bridge, you don’t have a very good control for an actual test.

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