Starting next year, Minneapolis plans to repave 26th and 28th Streets between I-35W and Hiawatha Ave, continuing west to Hennepin Ave in the future. Though nominally a repaving project, the city has also budgeted $400K for bicycle improvements on the two streets and is undertaking a planning study on how to potentially reconfigure the street, with a public meeting to share design concepts scheduled for this Wednesday, the 6th.
After a neighborhood walk-through last month, suggestions were made by fellow Streets.MN writer Janne Flisrand. The ideas included some far-reaching items such as a two-way conversion and protected cycle-tracks. But since this project is initially focusing on what can be done within the existing street width, a deeper look needs to be made at ideas that can be done within those curbs.
After reviewing the latest traffic counts plus street width data from MnDOT State Aid and the City of Minneapolis, I used the excellent street design tools at StreetMix to create a series of potential street cross-sections, modeled to evaluate different bicycle facilities and lane configurations with the varying street widths along 26th and 28th Streets. The full set of cross-sections can be viewed on Flickr.
In short, what I found is that the ideas proposed by Janne are technically possible.
Lowry Hill East neighborhood (west of Lyndale)
The Lowry Hill East neighborhood, between Hennepin Ave and Lyndale Ave, has the narrowest street widths along both corridors, about 36ft. It also has the lowest traffic volumes along both corridors, which makes it a good candidate for two-way conversion, as visualized below:
In this configuration, 26th and 28th would have one lane in each direction between Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues, with on-street parking on both sides of the street, a marked improvement over today’s parking prohibition on one side on most blocks. This configuration would also easily allow for bump-outs at corners with intersecting streets. Though no dedicated bicycle facilities are included, sharrows could be painted in the lanes.
If dedicated bicycle facilities are desired, two options are possible, both keeping the current parking prohibition on one side of the street. One option provides narrow bike lanes on both sides, while a second option sacrifices one of the bike lanes for a single, buffered bike lane in one direction. This second option would be one way to connect bicycle facilities on 26th and 28th further east to the Bryant Ave Bike Boulevard.
The Whittier neighborhood between Lyndale Ave and I-35W presents great opportunities but also great challenges, as it has some of the widest and narrowest sections of 26th and 28th Streets along the entire corridor. The basic idea through Whittier and continuing all the way east to Cedar Ave is to keep both streets as one-way streets, but incorporating a “road diet” in order to provide a two-way cycletrack on 26th Street and a buffered bike lane on 28th Street.
The above section of 26th Street, between Blaisdell Ave and Lyndale Ave, is the only area where on-street parking would need to be removed in order to build a cycletrack. For most of these suggested ideas, existing on-street parking would be retained, with some blocks even adding new on-street parking.
Extra street width on both streets in the vicinity of Nicollet Ave provides the potential for several additional amenities. At 26th and Nicollet, on-street buffered bicycle parking could be provided in front of the Black Forest Inn. At 28th and Nicollet, on-street bike parking and a parklet are possible in front of the Whittier Clinic. This additional street width extends to some extent between Blaisdell Ave and Stevens Ave, enough to where both streets can offer on-street parking on both sides in addition to the bicycle facilities, providing another buffer between vehicle traffic and pedestrians on the sidewalks.
The main challenge in Whittier is the 3-block stretch of 26th Street between Stevens Ave and Clinton Ave, where the street width is only 38ft curb-to-curb. A 2-way cycletrack is still possible here, but only 9ft in width with minimal separation from traffic lanes. On-street parking is also possible, as seen in the below cross-section:
The Phillips part of the corridor is characterized by high traffic volumes traveling to/from major employers. Childrens Hospital, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage are all major employers and traffic generators in the area. The highest traffic volumes on both streets are where they approach Chicago Ave. These high traffic volumes drive the demand for multiple vehicle travel lanes along both streets, which makes implementing bicycle facilities challenging. However, both streets are a consistent, and wide, 44ft in width, so there is adequate room to provide improvements.
This cross-section is typical for what I suggest on 28th Street between I-35W and Chicago Ave, with three travel lanes and a buffered bike lane. The suggested cross-section for 26th Street is very similar, including the 2-way cycletrack idea for that street. A variation of this turns the left lane on 28th Street into an on-street parking lane during off-peak time periods. If traffic conditions are such that two lanes are enough for eastbound 28th Street, a more radical variation is possible, in that 28th Street could be converted to 2-way operation between Stevens Ave and 10th Ave S, with 1 westbound lane and 2 eastbound lanes. This would provide hospital and Wells Fargo traffic another way to get to the southbound I-35W on-ramp on Stevens Ave without having to deal with Lake Street, and would potentially relieve traffic on westbound Lake Street. This could be done either without or with a westbound bike lane as well.
East of Chicago Ave to Cedar Ave, the suggested cross-section for 26th Street is similar to what it is through West Phillips, with a 2-way buffered cycletrack on the south side of the street, two westbound travel lanes, and a 3rd peak-period lane that becomes a parking lane during non-peak periods. Along 28th Street east of Chicago Ave, where there is less need for so many traffic lanes, the street width easily allows for 2 travel lanes, parking lanes on both sides, and a buffered bike lane.
Another unique opportunity presents itself on 28th Street between 17th Ave and Cedar Ave, as visualized above. In this stretch, on-street parking is limited to one side, while a contraflow cycletrack (extending east of Cedar Ave) is included, providing an alternative route connecting the Hiawatha LRT Bike Route and the Midtown Greenway to the 17th Ave Bike Boulevard.
East of Cedar Ave
The East Phillips area, east of Cedar Ave, is largely industrial area, reminiscent of its history abutting the railroad. Both 26th and 28th have 2-way traffic in this area, connecting to the busy Hiawatha Ave. Even though this area is mostly industrial, several significant bike connections can be made. 26th Street continues east of Hiawatha Ave into the Seward neighborhood, one of the few to do so. 28th Street connects directly to the Midtown Greenway, and both streets have connections to the Hiawatha LRT Bike Route.
The above is the typical section I suggest on 26th between Hiawatha and Cedar, with two westbound lanes (one with a sharrow), a single eastbound lane, an eastbound bike lane, and on-street parking. If a dedicated westbound lane is desired, the on-street parking could be removed to allow for it.
As parking is already prohibited along 28th east of Cedar Ave, and eastbound 28th is narrowed to a single lane at the Midtown Greenway crossing, I opted to perpetuate these two items while using street width for other improvements. A center left turn lane is added, as are buffered bike lanes on both sides of 28th. These bike lanes, along with a contraflow lane suggested above between 17th and Cedar, provide network redundancy and offer another way to connect from the Hiawatha LRT Bike Path and the Midtown Greenway to the 17th Ave Bike Boulevard.
At the Greenway crossing, the street is reconstructed slightly to allow the bike lanes to connect directly to the Greenway. East of the Greenway, bike traffic uses the already existing bike path, but at Hiawatha Ave, a large bumpout could easily be added to shorten the pedestrian street crossing.
Summing It Up
The repaving project presents an opportunity for the city to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian improvements along a busy, highly populated corridor while at the same time right-sizing the street. A dedicated cycletrack along 26th and a bike lane along 28th would further fill in the bicycle network and provide safe facilities for all bicycle riders. Bump-outs would reduce the street width pedestrians would have to cross. And enough travel lanes can still be provided for traffic to access the major employers along the corridor.
The next step is to let the city know that it is possible to build these facilities. If you have the opportunity and would like your voice heard, please attend the public meeting this Wednesday (the 6th) at 6pm at the American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave S.