It has been publicized that Hennepin County is working on plans to build a “wishbone overlook” on the upper portion of Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. The Star Tribune article states cost-estimates of $50-100 Million USD to build this project. I’m going to err on the side of the upper estimate, because at Streets.MN we all know that infrastructure improvements are seldom completed under budget.
I personally don’t find this plan worthwhile. After all, here are 4 existing spots that you can currently enjoy the grandeur of the Mississippi River around Saint Anthony Falls (for free!):
There is also this 5th option that is being floated by Friends of the Lock and Dam: an outlook and public space built out of the existing (decommissioned) structure.
After a lot of thinking I’ve found a few other options that are a (much) better use of $100 million dollars:
We could fully fund the D-Line BRT which would upgrade the Route 5 and significantly improve accessibility for many people in North Minneapolis and South Minneapolis as well as serve the neighboring cities of Brooklyn Center and Bloomington.
We could extend the Midtown Greenway across the Mississippi river – a project very dear to me personally – that would make crossing the river easier and safer than traversing to Lake St for the 1000s of people that walk, roll, and bike there every day.
We could build 90+ Very Affordable Housing Units (<50% AMI). Through an email exchange with Barbara Jeanette at Alliance Housing, I learned Alliance recently completed building a 44-unit supportive housing building at 3001 East Lake Street for $9.8 Million. This building checks all the boxes: dense, affordable, human-scale, and only 3 parking spaces.
After doing all that, we could still perform 4-3 lane conversions and increase safety for all users on 40+ miles* of Hennepin County Roads and redefine that these roads can indeed be safe and welcoming spaces for all residents in the neighborhoods they pass through – not just the motorists on the far sides.
So in summary:
- $40 Million: Fully fund D-Line BRT.
- $20 Million: Extend the Midtown Greenway across the Mississippi River.
- $20 Million: Build 90+ units of desperately needed Affordable Housing.
- $20 Million: 4-3 & PBL a majority of Hennepin County Death Roads within Minneapolis.
- $0 Dollars: Close Main St and West River Road to vehicle traffic to provide a more enjoyable recreational experience for everyone, all the time.
This is what I would do with $100 million dollars of Public Money. What would you do? Please share your ideas in the comments.
*Using cost estimates from an exchange with Minneapolis Public Works about the much anticipated U of MN Protected Bikeways Project which is building 3 miles of Protected Bike Lanes for a cost of 1.5 million.