SWLRT West Lake Station: Avoiding Future Regrets

West Lake Station portion of roll plot (SWLRT Project Office proposed plans July 2014)

West Lake Station portion of roll plot (SWLRT Project Office proposed plans July 2014)

I’ve appreciated the streets.mn blogging about Central Corridor coulda-woulda-shoulda’s. Other than signal-timing, I think it’s fair to say they mainly relate to pedestrian needs. Well, pedestrian needs have gotten short shrift to date for the SWLRT West Lake Station (also future Midtown terminus) – although it may not appear that way at first glance.

Unfortunately, until now, the freight railroad and tunnel issues have sucked up all the attention. The City of Minneapolis – Met Council tentative agreement, arrived at in secret mediation sessions, shows costly, undesirable ‘vertical circulation.’ Other Minneapolis stations absolutely require highly engineered solutions to provide ‘aerial’ pedestrian access, but West Lake does not. Many people have been advocating for what has come to be called ‘terrestrial’ access.

One of the major needs in our community is improved north-south connectivity for ALL modes. Erecting a fence on the north side of the freight tracks and forcing pedestrians and bicyclists up onto the yucky Lake Street bridge (to then go back down by elevator/stairs) would be regrettable. Engaged stakeholders aren’t ready to accept this as the final outcome.

Since municipal consent is focused on the basic location of tracks and station platforms, there is flexibility to adjust the pedestrian/bicyclist/bus-rider access details. The Memorandum of Understanding calls for a traffic study (including pedestrian issues) to be conducted for the West Lake Station vicinity. It needs to be stressed that this should inform design, not merely justify the presently proposed concept. This requires an openness to approach it with a ‘complete transit stations’ mindset. (It’s frustrating and ironic that we’ve made inroads on ‘complete streets,’ but struggle when it comes to transit station design.)

To minimize future regrets, we need a dialog involving more perspectives and ideas. (Information available at the website for Public Works for Public Good (www.pwpg.org) can aid in the discussion.)

Jeff Peltola

About Jeff Peltola

Jeff Peltola has been focused on local, Twin Cities, issues since returning from a fellowship in the U.S. Senate in 2009. A member of the City of Minneapolis Charter Commission, he’s passionate about good governance. Stemming from several years working with community stakeholders to improve the area around Lake St & Excelsior Blvd, near where he lives, he became the Founding President of Public Works for Public Good in 2013. The nonprofit strives to improve our physical infrastructure, community by community, project by project, in the early problem definition and conceptual phase. Through these efforts, using an inclusive, collaborative approach – leveraging volunteer and in-kind contributions – it seeks to strengthen our civic and institutional infrastructure as well.