Park and Portland Restriping

Park and Portland, as you may have heard, are in the process of being restriped to add a peak-hours-only transit lane between Lake St and 14th St. This isn’t covered in the web presence for the $239 million project, but it is happening. At the time I’m writing this, Park has been restriped, and Portland is happening next weekend. As a walker, cyclist, and transit user who lives between Park and Portland in Elliot Park, I’m concerned about the lack of process surrounding this redesign.

I attended a meeting in my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago where there were some representatives from MNDoT informing us of the impacts of the construction season on our neighborhood. A lot of time went in to discussing street closures and impacts on businesses downtown, which seemed reasonable. There was a brief mention of a restripe to add a transit lane to Park and Portland, but no diagrams or details were provided, and the meeting moved on.

If I had seen such a diagram, I would have lost my dang mind. Here’s what a group was able to request from MNDoT, less than a month before the restriping was to occur:

Dangerous. Unenforceable. Unnecessary.

I rode Park north from 26th to get home after the restripe, and it was noticeably less safe. 16 wheelers park on Park around 22nd St regularly. Before the restripe, they were sitting on the edge of the buffer into the bike lane, still visible on the road. Now, they’re taking up half the bike lane, because a standard trailer is 8 feet 6 inches in width. Add wheels, mirrors, and a few inches for parking and instead of the 8’ allotted the trailer is taking up 10+ feet, eating up the meager 2’ painted buffer on the left side.

I will file 311 tickets for these vehicles, but honestly I do not have much hope they will be enforced. And on the other side of my 2’ painted buffer, there are cars which frequently travel in excess of 45 mph despite the 30 mph limit. Recently, someone was killed on Park by someone driving 60 mph through a red light. It’s also worth noting that these streets travel through communities of color – nearly all impacted blocks between Park and Portland are >50% non-white.

All this, for an absolute joke of a transit lane. There’s nothing on the street to indicate that it’s a transit lane, not even paint. It’s a lane for cars and I guess busses will use it at some point. It doesn’t look like the we are even asking cars to stay out of that lane when possible under the current setup. The 9 will probably not use it, making stops every other block and adding to the confusion, but the express busses will have to fight with the cars for use of the leftmost lane.

Even assuming the number of cars on Park and Portland doubles during rush hour, there is not a need for a third travel lane. Where there currently is a third lane, north of Franklin, it is not a safe place to be when it’s busy, cars go way too fast there, and the sunken holes in the pavement from the gas pipes that make me swerve deserve their own blog post.

One of the two lanes south of Franklin could have been given over to the transit vehicles leaving the other for car traffic and the impact to car travel times would be minimal at worst. But because MNDoT decided to skip the community engagement part of the process, there was no opportunity to voice my concerns or to ask the engineers to evaluate the streets for the needs of the people who live in my neighborhood and other connected neighborhoods against the needs of rush-hour commuters.

Should I be the victim of an accident, take this blog post and sue everyone accountable. Put the money toward preventing more deaths like mine by improving cycling infrastructure.

That’s enough doom and gloom. Here are some things we can do about it:

One relatively easy thing to do to mitigate the danger of having increased travel on these streets is to change the timing of the lights to keep traffic at safer speeds. The timing of traffic lights on these streets could to be slowed to the posted speed limit. Email your councilmember – the affected wards would be Ward 6Ward 9, and Ward 7 (for maybe a block).

When the time comes to re-stripe again, 3 years from now, when the majority of construction on 35W is over and there are once again a more-than-adequate number of lanes for car travel on the freeway, those of us who are still here have an opportunity to not just restore the safer lane setups, but to improve them: Our Streets has a blog post from 2012 about how we could improve the streets – and, we have 3 years to prepare for it. The commissioner for the majority of the affected area is Peter McLaughlin, and his opponents this year are Megan Kuhl-Stennes and Angela Conley. Contact them and ask them to support a safer Park and Portland in 2021, such as the one proposed in the above blog post. I also ask if this is something that Our Streets would like to push for once again – we have an opportunity to make something good happen at the other end of this car-tastrophe.

Pine Salica

About Pine Salica

Pine lives in Minneapolis and works in Saint Paul. Pine hasn't owned a car for over a dozen years, and can count on one hand the number of times they've operated one in the last 12 months. Housing is a human right, car storage is not. Member of the Climate Committee.

50 thoughts on “Park and Portland Restriping

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Wow, so much wrong with the re-stripe.

    11′ travel lanes? This is a width that screams to drivers to go fast. And don’t worry about paying attention, you’ve got plenty of room to swerve. Worst case, you swerve in to the seemingly empty bike lane. A similar 35 MPH roadway in Europe would be 9.8′ (3m) travel lanes and much safer as the narrower lanes cause drivers to pay closer attention.

    Do we really want bike lanes? Well, yes and no. Painted bike lanes are better than nothing and better than what was here before. However, there’s a reason that you don’t see door zone bike lanes like this in The Netherlands or most other countries – they have proven to be both unsafe and uncomfortable compared to protected bikeways. Painted bike lanes like these are fine for the most adventurous 5% of the population but are wholly inappropriate for the other 95%.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        Yep. I believe the U.S. and Netherlands have the same maximum vehicle width of 8.5′ / 2.55m. Busses in NL are, I believe, allowed .5m additional for mirrors. Not sure about US mirror allowance.

        On some major routes they will occasionally have a single 3.25m (10.6′) lane for buses with 3m for the rest of the lanes though I believe 3m for all lanes is the norm for major roadways. Besides being stingy with space and to insure that they can provide adequate space for people walking and bicycling, they also do this when space is not an issue as it has proven safer because all drivers, including bus drivers, pay much better attention, drive more cautiously, and driver slower.

        BTW, these are often cement curb to cement curb with little to no reaction distance for drivers choosing to not pay attention to what they are doing. Cement enforces better than paint or paper. 🙂

  2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Thank you for this post, Nicole. I have been shocked how silent the Minneapolis bike advocacy community has been about this abrupt, zero-public-input change to the City’s best north-south bikeway. As a cycling safety instructor, I wonder why we believe it’s helpful to have a narrow buffer strip from other moving vehicles (overtaking cars), but zero buffer or breathing room is necessary from car doors.

    Let’s give the engineers the benefit of the doubt and say that there absolutely was no other option to accommodate 35W overflow, and for some reason, this required no public engagement. Could we at least have the bus-only lane be bus-only full-time? If 2 general travel lanes suffice at the busiest hours, why would we need 3 lanes off-peak?

    And if this number of travel lanes is sufficient for this remarkable 35W construction period, could we at least commit to reducing to two travel lanes + a full-width bike lane for the entirety of the corridor after construction is complete? Let’s eliminate that dangerous Lake Street area squeeze once and for all.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      Another example IMO of sacrificing safety and quality of life for people living in the city to benefit folks driving (and speeding) to and from suburban areas.

      1. Monte Castleman

        I bet there’s a lot of people in the city of Minneapolis using those streets too. I try to avoid driving through the city in rush hour if at all possible, but I I see a lot of people in cars getting on and off the freeway at 35th / 36th and 46th, exits suburbanites have little reason to use.

        1. Clear Eyes

          When bike lanes are added to these streets and lanes are reduced in general people naively note there seems to be no real traffic problem and this is taken as proof the bike lane /traffic calming worked! Alls good! Well of course that traffic went somewhere else- and the increased congestion on the highways can be linked in part to these streets converting to carry less car traffic. So yep, when they have to fix the highways, the cars have to come back at least temporarily.

      2. John Frid

        As a part time Uber and Lyft driver, please understand the gravity of the situation. Both the 4th Avenue and 11th Street downtown exits off 35W will be closed for at least 3 months and 35W will be narrowed down to 2 lanes near downtown, plus the exit to westbound I94 is closed for a long time. How are people like myself supposed to get to/from the airport out of downtown? I get your point but we are all in this together – you need to accept TEMPORARY changes to an arterial roadway just as much as drivers do.

      3. Bill Dooley

        Some folks say the same thing about Southwest LRT going through the Kenilworth Corridor.

    2. John Frid

      As a part time Uber and Lyft driver, please understand the gravity of the situation. Both the 4th Avenue and 11th Street downtown exits off 35W will be closed for at least 3 months and 35W will be narrowed down to 2 lanes near downtown, plus the exit to westbound I94 is closed for a long time. How are people like myself supposed to get to/from the airport out of downtown? I get your point but we are all in this together – you need to accept TEMPORARY changes to an arterial roadway just as much as drivers do.

        1. John Frid

          Umm, no, the downtown exits will be closed. It’s either exit at 46th Street or 36th Street and fight the unimaginable traffic.

          1. Chris Moseng

            Highway 55 is the answer you seek. Please don’t drive down Portland to the airport, because I guarantee if you do you’re driving too fast.

  3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Can’t blame the suburbs for a choice of the City of Minneapolis…

    I’m unclear how the arrangement will work actually. Obviously buses from the south will be using Park/Portland when coming from places far outside of Minneapolis. But will there be a substantial amount of general traffic exiting at 46th to proceed north? That interchange could only reasonably handle so much. I wonder if this change is mainly to get Minneapolis auto traffic downtown without using 35W (+ suburban buses)

    1. Aaron Berger

      I’m not sure whose project this is but I’m fairly certain it’s not a choice of the City of Minneapolis. Park Avenue is Hennepin CR 33 and Portland Avenue is CR 35, while the 35W project is run by MnDOT. It would be a lot easier to figure out if this project had a web presence I could find.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        The plan is for buses to exit/enter 35W at the 31st St ramps (which will supposedly be for buses only).

        Back when I first heard about this a few weeks ago, I sent an email to a Hennepin County transportation planning engineer who replied:

        “Yes, ultimately the county has to sign off on this temporary detour configuration that will last about 3 months.” There has been quite a bit of discussion between our traffic staff, Minneapolis Public Works and Mn/DOT regarding the configuration. …”

        1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

          To clarify, this decision was made primarily between MnDOT and the City, even though it’s a Hennepin County street.

          1. Aaron Berger

            Huh, wow. I wonder if the Bicycle Advisory Committee had a chance to provide feedback. Glad to hear it will only last 3 months.

          1. Pine SalicaNicole Salica Post author

            I am fairly sure this is for the duration of the project, but without it being covered anywhere on the web presence, it’s impossible to tell!

            1. Ethan Fawley

              MnDOT staff just told us:
              The temporary restriping is expected to remain in place until the transit operators are comfortable that they can again provide reliable service on 35W. We anticipate that this will happen in the Fall of 2018 when the 35W@94 project moves into stage 3, however if transit operators can’t provide a reliable service on 35W, the use of Park/Portland could extend through stages 3 and 4 of the project. Restriping is also weather (temperature) dependent, so may need to wait until spring if the decision to move back to the permanent striping is made when it is cold out.

              1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                Stage 3 and 4 look like they run through fall 2020? I assume that could mean as late as spring 2021 based on the point about striping and temperature.

                I’m glad they’re open to restoring soon, but it’s a little disconcerting that the bike lanes will be restored at some point in the 2.5 years between fall 2018 and spring 2021.

  4. Chris Moseng

    I love how “they” (MNDOT? These are county roads not highways, right?) can undo even bare-minimum safety improvements to yield more space to cars at the snap of a finger, but to take space back for humans takes years of fighting and process. And accountability for the change gets helpfully obscured as a bonus.

    These *should* be grade separated paths, but barring that, why does the safety buffer have to be sacrificed for the greater good and not the parking? After all, it’s just temporary, right? The safety buffer is what allows safe transportation on the corridor, the parking is a luxury.

    My council member and county commissioner will hear from me about this.

    1. NoMi dude

      lol, parking a luxury. that’s rich. maybe we can call bike racks a luxury as well. the reality is that transit only goes so many places, and only at certain times.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        Both bicycle riders and car drivers should pay their fair share.

        19 bicycles can fit in the same space required for 1 car. In a covered or indoor parking ramp it jumps to 33 bicycles in the space of 1 car. $1/hr for bicycles and $19/hr for cars seem about right?

      2. Chris Moseng

        If they cut the safety buffer to put bike racks ON the public right of way I’d join you in complaining. Somehow I don’t think that was your point, though. Try staying on topic.

        If something has to give to accommodate a construction emergency, car (tractor-trailer??) parking isn’t sacrosanct.

    2. Monte Castleman

      Until we have self-driving cars that deliver Amazon or Jimmy Johns, what you’re doing is reassigning space from one group of humans (those on bicycles) to a much larger group of humans (those in cars and buses), not from “humans to cars”.

        1. Joe

          They deliver by car frequently in the city of Minneapolis, don’t be purposely obtuse.

  5. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    I just drove the re-striped section of Portland Ave, and there was no signage about the new right hand lane being for transit only. I’ve repeatedly asked the city for what they plan to do to make sure this 50% increase in lane capacity actually serves bus riders rather than getting bogged down with regular traffic like bus lanes elsewhere. I have not heard back. This is not looking good.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        The streetmix diagram originally sent by CM Schroeder’s office shows a bus in the leftmost lane, but there was no change in the striping configuration between 29th and 31st Streets to suggest that buses will need to move from that left lane to the right lane to turn right at 31st St.

  6. John

    Why should bikers sacrifice? MNDOT could just have easily made 35W 100% MnPASS to fund more buses. Everyone would win. Average suburban commute time would drop.

    1. John

      Southdale plus MOA neighborhood could be giant park and rides for commuter bus service.

  7. Nicole

    If this would have been a bollard-protected lane in the first place, like it should have been in the first place, it would be a lot harder to “restripe” those bollards out… :/

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Would it? Those things pop out pretty easily. For better or for worse, I don’t think the cheap plastic delineators would make a difference in the direction here.

    1. Monte Castleman

      What’s the situation here? Is the truck broken down or making a deliver or just randomly parked there? Is there a parking space nearby where the truck could legally fit?

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        Also curious why a semi would remain parked. But I think Nicole’s citation in her SeeClickFix thing is correct — state law prohibits parking in bike lanes, unless signage specifically permits it. So I don’t think you’re guaranteed to be able to park any width of vehicle legally even if the parking job is otherwise correct.

        Does seem like a unique circumstance, but I doubt passenger cars opening doors are much better — especially come winter. In previous winters, cars occupy the entire buffer area. If this is still in place this winter, I expect they will block most of the bike lane.

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