Take the Crosswalk to Nowhere While You Still Can

Inevitably, someone was stuck at the far end of the Crosswalk to Nowhere when Google’s Streetview truck went by last year.

 

Over the years people in Minneapolis and Saint Paul have dubbed several dubious landmarks “Bridge to Nowhere” and “Skyway to Nowhere.” As fashionable nicknames and features of the cityscape, they come and go.

But one such landmark has quietly persisted for decades: Minneapolis’s Crosswalk to Nowhere.

You find it at the intersection of Main Street and First Avenue NE, just across the Hennepin Avenue bridge from downtown.

This is a long view of the approach to the Crosswalk to Nowhere

 

You get the Walk signal and start walking across Main, the oldest street in the city, aiming in downtown’s direction. Perhaps you pause midway to take in the skyline and river views from the traffic island.

This is the Crosswalk to Nowhere

 

Finally you reach the far corner — where you discover you have no legal option but to turn around and go back the way you came.

The end of the Crosswalk to Nowhere

 

In one direction is a No Walking sign and a dirt path where a sidewalk should be.

Here’s the block long gap in paved bike/pedestrian trails along Main Street

 

In another, a three-lane road with no crosswalk or pedestrian signal.

Looking across First Ave. NE from the Crosswalk to Nowhere

 

Straight ahead, the wrong side of First Avenue’s one-way bridge over the Mississippi’s East Channel, the side with no sidewalk.

This is where you’d go if you kept walking straight ahead past the Crosswalk to Nowhere

 

It’s a classic American crossroads dilemma. Which way do you go? Do you stay on the straight and narrow or make a deal with the devil? What is free will when you’re faced with a Hobson’s choice? Is life one long crosswalk to nowhere?

 

 

Sadly, you may not have the opportunity to ponder such questions at the Crosswalk to Nowhere much longer. Forces are conspiring that would make it a crosswalk to somewhere, by replacing that blocklong dirt path along Main Street with proper pavement — probably for the first time in city history, judging from old aerial photos.

The area is on the radar of planners at Hennepin County. That’s important because Main Street, First Avenue NE, and (surprise!) East Hennepin Avenue are all county roads. “Hennepin County is aware of the sidewalk gap at the Main and 1st intersection,” Jordan Kocak, the county’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, told me in an email. “We are currently exploring what opportunities exist to make improvements to this location. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything certain to offer you at this time but it is a known gap and is under consideration for future improvements.”

The county is crucial, but ideas and cash could come from elsewhere too. Termed “The Seam,” that gap in the bike and pedestrian trail is featured as a problem to solve in the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan (pages 7-26 and 7-27).

The gap in bike and pedestrian trails along the river is called The Seam in the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan

 

The gap (not called The Seam) also features in the City of Minneapolis’s East Hennepin and First Avenue NE Transportation Study of the same year.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has amassed nearly $1 million in park dedication fees from the rampant development in the neighborhood (see interactive MPRB map). And the Nicollet-Island East Bank Neighborhood Association told the park board closing that trail gap on Main Street is their top priority for using that money.

Park dedication fees in the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood have built up a nice purse for park improvements.

 

For those who were looking, there have been signs that the corner’s heyday as a monument to nihilism might be nearing its end. Or rather, there hasn’t been a sign: At some point in the last couple years, one of the pedestrian-with-a-slash-through-him-or-her signs disappeared.

 

The do-not-cross sign at right disappeared in recent years. The one at left is still there.

But until then,

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Take the Crosswalk to Nowhere While You Still Can

  1. Matt August 1, 2018 at 8:16 am #

    I’ll never forget the time we had two families visiting and we walked along the riverfront (with three strollers) only to be stranded at Hennepin. And none of these crosswalks are ADA/stroller friendly either.

  2. Matt August 1, 2018 at 8:22 am #

    Would this be the time for Hennepin County to consider removing the one-way 1st/Hennepin pair through Old St. Anthony?
    (Yes)

  3. commissar August 3, 2018 at 12:21 am #

    its clearly an access route for panhandlers!

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