Why did Centerpoint Energy Close the Greenway for 10 Days?

On July 23rd, Centerpoint Energy closed the Midtown Greenway without providing any advance notice to the users of the trail. No signage was put in place in advance of the closure, and they did not notify the Midtown Greenway Coalition. They simply erected barricades and ripped up the trail.

Barricades blocking the construction zone on the Midtown Greenway

The detour provisions provided were wholly inadequate. The detour was not signed well enough to follow, and apparently the intended route was not a good one anyways. The Greenway Coalition put out this very terse message on the day of the closure:

Centerpoint originally promised to reopen the trail by July 27th. They did open it for the Greenway Glow festival that evening, but was closed again the following week. They then promised to reopen it by August 1st, then that slipped to August 2nd. The explanation offered for the closure was a “pipeline replacement project”:

The trail was finally reopened on the afternoon of the 2nd, hours before the start of Powderhorn 24, an event that had been scheduled on that section of trail a long time in advance.

I have reached out to Centerpoint several times requesting an explanation for the closure:

I have tried several channels and have not received any response. At this point, it seems likely that I will not.

So why did this happen? Well, the most basic explanation is that Centerpoint bungled it, badly. It appears that they failed to do any advance planning, or to consider that a closure of a major bicycle and pedestrian route might affect people. But the City of Minneapolis also signed off on this project, and had city officials asked any questions about Centerpoint’s plans, they ought to have noticed very quickly that Centerpoint was not adequately prepared. Either the city failed to conduct any diligence before approving the closure, or they simply didn’t care.

Unless Centerpoint deigns to make a public statement, most of the questions surrounding this incident may go unanswered. Instead, perhaps we should ask the more important question: will anyone do better the next time?

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21 Responses to Why did Centerpoint Energy Close the Greenway for 10 Days?

  1. ianrbuck August 14, 2019 at 9:49 am #

    Oof, yeah, that was a bad one. I got caught by the closure one evening and tried to follow the detour. When I got several blocks south of Lake St and hadn’t seen any signs in a while, I just have up and followed Lake east.

    • Ian Young August 14, 2019 at 3:41 pm #

      This was my experience too. Seems like they just put out a sign at the beginning and then expected you to magically intuit the rest of the detour route. Everyone who did find the marked route said it was bad, so at least you weren’t missing much!

      • Christa Moseng
        Christa Moseng August 16, 2019 at 11:40 am #

        One of the detour signs pointed South incorrectly both times the detour was posted and for the duration.

        Almost like they didn’t particularly care!

  2. Jake N August 14, 2019 at 9:52 am #

    The cavalier attitude that major trails are treated with gets my blood boiling… Especially this year..

    These are transportation corridors, they should be treated as such…

  3. Serafina Scheel
    Serafina Scheel August 14, 2019 at 10:19 am #

    First the Dinkytown Greenway is suddenly closed for the summer with no advance notice, and then this. It’s been a distressing summer for navigating the city on bike.

    • Patti Rogness August 14, 2019 at 3:10 pm #

      Amen!

    • Ian Young August 14, 2019 at 3:40 pm #

      Oof, I didn’t even hear about that one. Not to mention the multiple previous Greenway closures and the start of multi-year closures on Cedar Lake and Kenilworth. It’s frustrating to live in a city with first-class bike infrastructure than nobody can use.

  4. Alex August 14, 2019 at 10:52 am #

    If only the city had some sort of “bike & pedestrian coordinator” who could look into massive fails like these & propose procedures to prevent it from happening again…

    Also, Centerpoint has a franchise agreement with the city that is renewed periodically. Next time the city could slip in some language requiring advance notice, better detours, etc, for non-emergency closures. Call your councilmember.

  5. Beth Evanson Makhoul August 14, 2019 at 11:36 am #

    Thanks for digging into this and pursuing answers. Agreed; the question is, “how will this be avoided in the future?”

  6. Bill Dooley August 14, 2019 at 11:48 am #

    This will continue to happen as long as utility company executives, workers and city departments are staffed by folks who do not bicycle for transportation and have no concept what bicycle infrastructure is or should do.

  7. Matt Steele
    Matt August 14, 2019 at 12:10 pm #

    A large section of Minnehaha Creek bikeway near Bloomington Ave was roped off this morning for tree removal, presumably by MPRB. There was no advance warning, no detour signage, and lots of bicyclists had to ride across grass and then in the parkway.

  8. Elsa August 14, 2019 at 12:57 pm #

    The detour was definitely inadequate—up on 29th avenue, and for a half block or so, only about a three-foot path for bikes to get past construction equipment. People going eastbound had to stop and wait for those going westbound and it was pretty frustrating for those of us (ahem) who were running a little late already.

    Coordination with the Greenway Coalition would probably have improved many things about this closure.

  9. Nicole Salica
    Nicole Salica August 15, 2019 at 11:02 pm #

    My top-ranked Most Frustrating Thing about this is how I can’t do anything about it. If it was a regular business, I could make a big stink about it and get people to switch, e.g. cell phone providers, or banks, or juice brands. I can’t boycott their products because uhh complicated utility reasons. So I guess we just suck it up and do nothing! Yay.

    • Ian Young August 18, 2019 at 2:35 pm #

      Yeah, dealing with a state-ordered monopoly can be a little frustratingly indirect. However, I wouldn’t view it as having no options. My impression is that the utilities do care about what people think, insofar as they have to negotiate with the state every few years, and if the state hears too many legitimate complaints, they can extract concessions from the company (or in theory, they could award the contract to someone else entirely). We can’t give these mistakes a direct commercial cost, but we can still give them a cost in terms of bad publicity. From what I’ve heard, Centerpoint has already received enough feedback to regret their handling of this and probably won’t make the same mistakes next time.

      Also, they need permission from state agencies, and those agencies do answer (if again indirectly) to the people. Call your councilperson, and your councilperson can call the correct government official and suggest that next time, they don’t give a pass to sloppy project plans.

  10. Brian August 19, 2019 at 7:21 am #

    Why do bike riders think they should be exempt for construction closures and detours? There certainly should have been so e advance notice given.

    Bus riders are suffering from years of road construction on various roads and highways.

    • Rosa August 19, 2019 at 9:18 pm #

      There is no way in hell a major car thoroughfare would be closed with 1) no warning and 2) a detour that required crossing another major thoroughfare but got no preference over cross traffic. Nobody’s asking to be exempt, we’re asking for comparable treatment to car traffic.

      It would have been SO MINOR to put a temporary four-way stop at Bloomington & 29th. It wouldn’t have slowed traffic during rush hour (because traffic is typically backed up that far from the Lake street stop light) and would have made the detour much, much safer during non-rush hour.

      I didn’t have any reason to go West during the closure so I didn’t see what the rest of the detour looked like (17th Ave, just east of the closure, is my exit) but it sounds like it was completely unsigned. That did not happen with any of the 35 closures this summer, for a comparison.

      Before, when there was construction on 17th Ave right by the Greenway entrance, the detour suggested was equally bad – go across Lake at 18th Ave where there’s no stoplight.

      • Brian August 20, 2019 at 6:54 am #

        Yes, there should have been advanced notice given which I already started. When a highway is closed cars being detoured don’t typically get priced over other traffic.

        A year or two back Como Ave was closed. The detour wasn’t properly signed and I got totally lost.

        My point still is why do bicyclists think bike paths should be exempt from closures for work? What happens when the Midtown Greenway needs to be repaved? Do they just let the it deteriorate rather than pave it to a closure?

        • Ian Young August 20, 2019 at 9:11 am #

          Brian, I think you’re putting forth a straw man argument here. I don’t see anyone stating that bike paths should be exempt from ever being closed.

          • Brian August 20, 2019 at 10:14 am #

            The author seems pretty upset about the closure to actually write and submit an article. Lots of negative comments too about the closure.

            I am way more upset with MNDOT for taking three years with 35W which means my bus ride will be longer every day for over two more years.

            • Ian Young August 20, 2019 at 10:31 am #

              That’s me. I’m the author.

              I am pretty upset about the closure, as are many other Greenway users. However, the target of my unhappiness is not the closure itself, but the failure to treat that closure with an appropriate level of seriousness.

              I feel for you and your bus commute, truly. The 35W work is a big deal with major impacts, and in recognition of that, it has been planned and publicly discussed for literal years before any work started. Imagine if none of that had happened and instead you got on the bus one day and the driver told you that they had just discovered on the way down that 35W is closed indefinitely, and the signage was routing everyone onto Blaisdell instead.

  11. Tucker August 20, 2019 at 4:28 pm #

    So I guess the BIG light board sign at Bryant entrance is in response to informing us they are closing the Midtown Trail.

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