By Joshua Houdek
Studies show we are driving less and less – especially in urban areas.. This is a steady trend, not a fad. So it is exciting to report that in a historic vote on Tuesday, December 17, Hennepin County Commissioners Peter McLaughlin, Gail Dorfman, Linda Higgins and Jan Callison acknowledged this trend in less driving, more bicycling, walking and transit use. These forward-looking Commissioners approved a transformative design for a major urban transportation corridor: Washington Avenue from downtown Minneapolis to I-35W. The design calls for narrower and fewer traffic lanes to encourage, accommodate and enhance green transportation options. What’s historic? This is the first major county project in the state of Minnesota to include protected bike lanes that will separate moving car traffic from people riding bicycles.
Sierra Club and our allies in the Bikeways for Everyone coalition worked tirelessly for over a year on this historic win. And we weren’t alone: business leaders from the Downtown Council and the Star Tribune supported the design. Washington Avenue, besides being a gateway to the city and home to an increasing number of residents as development increases in the area, is a critical, direct connection between the University of Minnesota and downtown. The section from Hennepin to 5th Ave S will be reconstructed in 2015. The stretch southeast to I-35W is not a planned project at this time; however the design will provide guidance for when this section is reconstructed.
Special thanks to everyone who signed a postcard, sent an email, made a phone call or shared a Facebook update. It’s your efforts and those of many others that helped make this victory happen. Now, how about your street?