Seven Reasons to Keep 29th Avenue Closed to Cars

After a test closure of 29th Avenue at the Midtown Greenway that has been in place for a year, the City of Minneapolis is proposing to turn the closure into a ‘half closure’ on a long-term basis. The City’s proposal is to open 29th Avenue to northbound traffic, bringing more traffic back to a key route for people biking and walking to Seward Montessori School.

Seward students at the 29th Avenue closure

Seward students at the 29th Avenue closure

This closure is part of a broader Seward Montessori Safe Routes to School planning effort, and the City’s report on the closure can be found here. Seward Montessori is a public magnet school with about 850 students in grades K-8. The school has a robust and growing biking program. In 2016, Seward Montessori incorporated bike skills and traffic safety curriculum into its health classes, and all 4th and 5th grade classes were able to participate in bike rides. With a new on-site bike fleet, the school will be able to continue this momentum into the future.

The test closure has been a dramatic success. Both the Midtown Greenway and 29th Avenue were emphasized in parent surveys as key routes to Seward Montessori School, and the importance of these routes prompted the City to explore the test closure. The test closure should be made permanent for the following reasons.

First, a permanent closure might cause minor inconvenience, but reopening it could result in a tragedy. The worst-case scenario for keeping the closure in place, as described by City staff in a meeting on May 10, 2016, is that a large truck that approached the closure from the south would find itself in a dead end, and would need to back up for one block. A truck backing up from the Greenway to 28th would need about 60 seconds to make the maneuver, assuming a speed of roughly eight miles per hour. With signs placed at 28th Street to make the dead end obvious, this should be a rare event. City staff noted that after nearly a year of the test closure, they received no complaints related to trucks backing out of the dead end.

Signage at entrance to 32nd Avenue dead-end block

Signage at entrance to 32nd Avenue dead-end block

Reopening 29th Avenue for northbound traffic would bring hundreds of vehicles (including large trucks) back to a street that has been much calmer and safer during the closure. The potential dangers of renewed traffic on 29th outweigh the inconvenience of a truck needing to back up. The City should maintain the closure to avoid the greater danger.

Second, the local community likes the closure. Public feedback has been 72% positive, 3% neutral and 25% negative. Change is seldom easy, and often contentious. With nearly three of four people in support, the test closure has been embraced by a clear majority of the community. Located at the border of two neighborhoods, and both the Longfellow Community Council and Seward Neighborhood Group have taken positions in support of the closure.

Student riding in front of Seward Montessori School on 29th Avenue

Student riding in front of Seward Montessori School on 29th Avenue

Third, parents and teachers love the closure. This intersection matters a lot to parents & teachers. Parents mention feeling much safer walking or biking to school with the closure in place. Class rides benefit from the closure.

As one teacher said:

Whenever my class bikes together on the Greenway, we use the entrance at 29th. The closure is crucial to the safety of my 32 students biking together!

(Lisa Herr, Seward teacher)

Seward parents and teachers appreciate this safety improvement, and do not want to see it removed.

Seward Montessori spring event in Matthews Park

Seward Montessori spring event in Matthews Park

Fourth, the closure was planned together with the stop sign switch at 29th Avenue and 26th Street. For many years, 26th Street was unsafe to cross, due to wide lanes and a long segment without stops that encouraged speeding. From the start, Seward’s Safe Routes to School planning process identified 26th Street as the #1 priority to fix first. The City concurred, and switched the stop signs at the intersection of 26th Street & 29th Avenue in late 2014 to help calm traffic on 26th Street. This change was intended to happen simultaneously with the test closure, to avoid creating a speedway on 29th Avenue.  However, there was a period of several months during Winter 2014/2015 when the stop sign switch had taken place, but the test closure had not yet been installed. During this time, local residents and parents expressed concerns about traffic speeding along 29th Avenue, as the new two-block stretch with no stop sign. Reopening 29th for northbound traffic at the Greenway would bring back the speeding traffic from Winter 2014/2015. The stop sign switch at 26th Street and 29th Avenue has improved safety, and it works best in combination with the closure of 29th at the Greenway.

Fifth, the problems that aren’t fixed by the closure won’t be fixed by removing it. The closure brought important safety gains, but it did not solve everything. Two unsolved issues are noted in the City’s report.

One issue is that the block of 29th Avenue adjacent to the school saw a 14% (approximately 200 vehicles/day) reduction in traffic after the test closure was installed. We agree with the City’s goal of further reducing traffic near the school, and we support the City’s efforts to add effective traffic diversion closer to the school. Reopening 29th would work against the City’s overall intent to make 29th Avenue a calmer, safer street. Allowing northbound traffic on 29th Avenue at the Greenway would bring more traffic back to 29th Avenue, including large trucks from businesses adjacent to the Greenway.

The other issue is that the intersection of 30th Avenue and the Greenway is a problem, and also impacts a driveway that serves Donnelly Stucco and Doppler Gear, immediately south of the Greenway. The key problems on 30th Avenue at this location are a small hill that limits sight lines, and a wide street that encourages unsafe speeds. A partial removal of the 29th Avenue closure will not fix the problems that make 30th Avenue problematic. We urge the City to address neighborhood & business concerns by making safety improvements to 30th Avenue.

Sixth, the businesses nearest the intersection have adapted to the closure. As part of the test, City staff took video of the closed intersection, as well as 30th Avenue and nearby business driveways. Based on review of this video, the City determined that removal of the closure was not necessary to facilitate the operations of neighboring businesses.

Students and volunteers preparing to bike to Seward Montessori School

Students and volunteers preparing to bike to Seward Montessori School

Seventh, the closure has not caused other streets to become congested. After the closure, the block of 29th Avenue north of the Greenway saw a reduction of 670 vehicles per day, a 69% drop. At the same time, 30th Avenue saw a traffic increase of 134 cars per day. That means that only 1 in 5 of the vehicles that left 29th Avenue decided to use 30th Avenue as an alternate route. Most of the traffic from 29th Avenue found its way to nearby arterials that are intended to carry more traffic. After a year of the closure, it’s evident that the traffic diverted from 29th has not caused traffic jams on nearby streets.

The test closure of 29th Avenue at the Midtown Greenway has been functional, popular, and effective in increasing safety. The City should honor the feedback of parents & local residents, stand by its commitment to safety, and make this closure permanent.

P.S. – here’s what you can do to encourage the City to prioritize safety and retain the closure:

Speak up for safety at a meeting

City staff will be presenting plans for 29th Avenue at 7 pm on Tuesday, June 14 at the Seward Neighborhood Group CDC meeting (Matthews Park Building).

City staff will also make a presentation at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, July 5, at the Longfellow Community Council Neighborhood Development & Transportation Committee (Lake Coffee House, 3223 E. Lake Street).

Contact your council member

Three Councilmembers have direct connections to this project:

Seward Montessori School is in Council Member Abdi Warsame’s ward.

The test closure is in Council Member Cam Gordon’s ward.

Seward student riding on 29th AvenueMany of the students who bike through the intersection every day live in Council Member Andrew Johnson’s ward.

Abdi Warsame – – 673-2206

Cam Gordon – – 673-2202

Andrew Johnson – – 673-2212

Thank you for sharing your perspective about safe access to schools.

Matthew Hendricks

About Matthew Hendricks

I feel lucky to live in Minneapolis. On foot I’m the slowest member of my family, but on a bike I’m the fastest, at least for now. I enjoy soccer, swimming, appreciating gardens, and reading books to my kids.

35 thoughts on “Seven Reasons to Keep 29th Avenue Closed to Cars

  1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

    Why exactly are they proposing to reopen this to vehicular traffic? I have yet to hear an explanation for the city’s position.

    1. Matt Brillhart

      Ditto. What is Public Works stated reason for ending the closure? That’s pretty critical information for this article. It’s hard to form an opinion without knowing why the action is being taken. It’s clear that it was a “test” closure, which is inherently temporary, pending the results of the test…but what is not clear is why the avenue must be reopened to northbound traffic.

    2. Tony

      Hopefully because there are 2 businesses that are in between 29th ave and 30th ave and they have been there for more than 20 years and want to remain in business.Trucks need to get in to deliver and pickup.

        1. Tony

          They have been jacknifing north out of our parking lot onto 30th avenue to an uphill blind spot from oncoming traffic over the greenway in order to exit our lot or they are jacknifing south on 30th onto a residential street and almost hitting cars in the process. Already seen multiple cars going south on 30th almost hit the semi’s taking the left that the car cant see until they are up the hill. God forbid there is a biker there as well. There are 2 ways to get in or out of our lot and those are 30th or 29th avenue.

          1. Joe U

            It really sounds like you should be advocating for a closure at the greenway on 30th as well. Your trucks wouldn’t be hitting greenway traffic and there wouldn’t be any auto traffic traveling over a blind hill to hit a turning semi. As an added bonus, all of that nuisance traffic cutting from 29th to 30th would disappear as well.

            I’m just confused why you’re so opposed to traveling south out of your lot. The test closure hasn’t removed any access points to these businesses.

            1. Tony

              I don’t care if they exit south on 29th but if 30th avenue is closed is a 53′ semi supposed to back either into or out of the parking lot to arrive or leave?

                1. Tony

                  That will work but only if there are no cars parked on either side of 30th for about 200 feet south of the greenway if the residents didn’t care but I have a feeling they would. Again these are 53 foot long semitrailers and need space for a wide turn to exit.

          2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

            Right, there are two ways out of your lot, which is what’s weird about your complaint and what makes your claims about harm to your business hard to fathom.

            Whether exiting on 29th or 30th, truck face essentially the same thing. North is a ramp up/over the tracks and south are houses. That doesn’t change because there’s two options instead of one.

            Heck, I’d think that good process planning would make you want to direct trucks in one way and out the other anyway, but maybe that’s not how your business works.

      1. Rosa

        wait, between 29th Ave & 30th Ave on which street? I go by there all the time and I can’t picture which parking lot you’re talking about.

        1. Tony

          Immediately south of the greenway and north of 28th street.
          There is no street that goes east to west through the businesses.

          1. Rosa

            I just went and biked around that block yesterday. What you’re leaving out is that it’s north of 29th street so there’s always the option of turning onto 29th and going out at the street level crossing to the west.

  2. Alex

    It’s encouraging that the city is interested in exploring additional traffic diversion in the area. I would add that not only should 29th stay closed at the Greenway, but 30th should be closed there as well. Based on the city’s data, there is 5-10 times more traffic on the Greenway than on those cross-streets.

    Minneapolis has a serious problem with aggressive driving and speeding, which is often more palpable on narrower “side” streets. Infrastructure is an important part of the solution, and specifically better channelization of motor vehicle traffic can both insulate users from speeding, aggressive drivers, and reduce the opportunity for drivers to misbehave.

      1. Rosa

        30th Avenue? The other barely-used, ridiculously steep street that crosses the Greenway just one block east of 29th, one block west of 31st Ave (which has an underpass instead of a grade-level crossing).

        Though at some times of day traffic diverted onto 31st might be inconvenienced by traffic for the Lake Street McDonalds. Anishanabe/Anne Sullivan school keeps almost all its traffic on 28th Street where its parking lot is.

        1. Tony

          We get about 20-25 53′ foot semi trucks per week here delivering and picking up product in order to do business and contribute to the economy and have for more than 2 decades.You must not have noticed that. Now thanks to the 29th avenue closure we get cars racing through our parking lot to 30th avenue. So destroy 2 businesses is the solution huh?

          1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

            Sounds like your cut-through problem would go away if both 29th and 30th did not cross the train tracks.

          2. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

            But I do notice that I’m now thankful I hired one of your competitors last year when I had my house redashed.

    1. Justin Doescher

      Yeah I can’t believe how aggressive drivers in this city can be, even on small side streets and back streets and at odd hours when hardly anyone is around. There’s an expectation that you as a pedestrian can’t cross even a narrow side street unless no cars are coming at all. Seems ridiculous to me.

    2. Tony

      So we should just close the 2 businesses in between 29th and 30th and cost about 40 people their jobs??

      1. Joey SenkyrJoey Senkyr

        29th has been closed for a year, and the businesses haven’t closed yet. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to assume they would have to in the future.

      2. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

        I forgot changing traffic patterns is a direct button that causes businesses to close…. ….

  3. Rosa

    Thank you for this update. I thought this issue was settled! What is wrong with the city? That’s was a terrible crossing for drivers when it was open – as steep as the one at 30th Avenue, even more likely to be full of cyclists because of bike traffic from the park, school, and coop, and for northbound traffic routing you right into the tangle of schoolbuses and parked cars around the school.

  4. JN

    Would it be possible to put a map to point out where this is?

    I used google maps to find it but are we talking the entire street or just a section of it.

    I probably only get to that area of minneapolis once a year or so. But am I curious.

    1. Rosa

      A map probably would be helpful!

      But to answer your question – it’s literally just the crossing at the Greenway, marked with signs and cones. Headed south, the closure signs are just a foot or two north of the still-extant railroad tracks next to the Greenway. Headed north, they’re a few feet south of the edge of the Greenway.

      I don’t know what a permanent closure would look like – planters? concrete barriers? It’s possible they want to do something decorative that would take up more of the street, but it’s not necessarily true – 25th St at Bloomington Avenue, in my neighborhood, has been blocked with temporary-looking concrete barriers and signs for as long as I can remember.

      Just south of the closure, there are industrial or trucking companies on both sides of 29th Ave (the next block south is residential). But both have their main driveways on other streets, I don’t know why they would care about northbound traffic on 29th Ave.

      Just north of the closure, there are a bunch of businesses (I don’t know if you’d consider Bedlam Theater & Tasty Lighting “industrial” but there are some other businesses along there) but that all open onto 27th street, which isn’t blocked at all.

  5. Denny

    THE city need to turn major street into 2 ways.Start with 26th and 28th Streets so the 4 Th Ave bus can run 2 -ways on 5th Ave S.
    HENN Ave is 2 ways except across the river for 1/2 mile.

    1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

      True. Different topic maybe, but 26th and 28th need to be two-way. I work between 26th and 28th and it’s clear that much of the motorized traffic around my office is merely going in obtuse directions to get where they are going because of the one-way network. If more of these streets were two-way, we would reduce the amount of driving and circling around in the “last mile” of trips.

      The 26th and 28th St bridges over I-35W are going to be completely rebuilt in the next few years as part of the I-35W expansion through this neighborhood. It seems like that would be a prime time to assess how two-way operation would work and make sure the bridges accommodate it.

      1. Rosa

        if they were two-way there would be absolutely no way for pedestrians to cross them in the big stretches with no stoplights. That includes the 17th Ave bike boulevard. At least right now there are occasional gaps in traffic.

        1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

          If it was two-way, it could have refuge islands to facilitate crossings. Like 17th/42nd, 40th/Cedar, 40th/Chicago, etc. They work great – find a gap and cross one lane of traffic at a time. And motorists are much more behaved around them

          1. Rosa

            That’s asking for a LOT of change by the city, when they’ve said they won’t do anything to slow traffic at 17th/26th or 17th/28th.

            Going down to two lanes made those streets so much better for pedestrians and bikes, and I actually prefer the two-lane parts as a driver too – I hate driving the speed limit on city streets and being passed from the right and left lanes on the 3 lane sections. But at the meetings about those changes the city made it pretty clear that stoplights (like at 40th & Cedar) were completely off the table because they don’t want cars to have to stop.

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