Regional Infrastructure: Splitting Up an Urban Neighborhood Near You

Contorting existing neighborhoods to host regional infrastructure creates crazy spill-over effects. Check out the beauty it adds to our neighborhoods and cultural institutions.


Beauty! (Source: Hennepin Lyndale Reconstruction Project site)

It’s an award-winning design. The engineers who created this 50 years ago won a national award for it – shoehorning ramps, bridges, slip turns, pork chop islands, and infrastructure I can’t even name into an historic institutional corridor.


Excellence! (Image: Ethan Fawley)

I thought I understood the Hennepin/Lyndale Bottleneck, having used it from every possible direction as a driver, a bus rider, a pedestrian, and a bicyclist for the last 18 years. On we’ve blogged the area to death (see Bill’s summary here). As an interested neighbor, I participated on a neighborhood stakeholder group advising the design team last summer.

As neighbors, we all knew that in living here, we chose the benefit of proximity in exchange for the inconvenience of hosting this giant regional transportation service. As stakeholders, we were recommending this burden be mitigated by adding safety and green space for people walking and biking through the corridor. Unsurprisingly, we eyed the frontage road on the west side of Hennepin. It’s redundant! May we change it?

We totally need a bonus road next to all those other lanes!

We totally need a bonus road next to all those other lanes!

The project designers saw this, too. One of their proposed designs cut off west-bound right turns at Douglas (the “B” in the image above, top purple bit on the image below).

An early Douglas proposal - rejected since discovery of its critical nature as a cloverleaf interchange

An early Douglas proposal shrinking right turns onto frontage road (in purple at the top) – an idea immediately rejected for reasons explained below

When this was mentioned out loud, I learned I hadn’t exited it in every direction, and I’d missed an unimaginable and hilariously perverse consequence of the design. [NOTE: this idea was immediately removed from consideration.]

Residents and institutional visitors of Lowry Hill and Loring Park are forced to use neighborhood streets as a cloverleaf interchange. When I first heard this, I was perplexed, so they walked our stakeholder group through it.

When you approach Groveland from either north or south, there’s No Left Turn.

By Sugeesh at ml.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

No Left Turn! (Image: Sugeesh at ml.wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

The blue line is Groveland

The blue line is Groveland

Let’s say you’re a resident of Lowry Hill, approaching from the south on Lyndale or Hennepin, or maybe exiting 94 heading north. And let’s pretend it’s election day, and you are going to First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis on Mount Curve to vote. You need to go left on Groveland to get to your polling place. But, nope! No Left Turn. What do you do?


Accessing Lowry Hill from the South

Accessing Lowry Hill from the South

Alternatively, maybe you’re exiting 394 heading south to Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. Again, you need to go left on Groveland. What do you do?


Accessing Loring Park from the North

Accessing Loring Park from the North

It turns out those award-winning engineers snuck in a cloverleaf interchange Easter Egg without anyone knowing. (I wonder, did even they know?)

The “No Left Turn” – forced by sandwiching regional-scale traffic infrastructure into an historic neighborhood – places yet another burden of time and traffic on the neighbors of this interchange.

As long as we’re stuck with the Spaghetti Bowl of I94 entrances and exits, we’re stuck with this crazy cloverleaf navigation through neighborhood streets and on a redundant frontage road. Maybe someday, one of the visions proposed on (#1, #2) can restore this grand corridor to it’s once grand state and address neighborhood access.

About Janne Flisrand

Janne Flisrand spends her time thinking about how people interact with the space around them. Why do they (or don't they) walk or bike or shop somewhere? How do spaces feel? Why do people sit here and not there? Why bus instead of bike, bike instead of drive? What sorts of spaces build community, and what sorts kill it? Can spaces build civic trust and engagement?

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