By Will Mackaman, Sierra Club Green Transportation Intern
On Thursday, June 19, an open house was held at the Whittier Community Center in Minneapolis to promote the various projects and designs that will be taking place on the I-35W corridor in the near future. The scope of the rehabilitation projects will follow I-35W from approximately E. 42nd Street near Kingfield to I-94 in downtown Minneapolis. On display at the open house were various posters, maps, layouts, and artwork that showcased the plans for these improvements. Representatives from MnDOT, Metropolitan Council, Metro Transit, Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis all came out to discuss their work, goals, and answer questions for the public.
Several of the projects are planned specifically for the Lake Street, I-35W intersection. The planned improvements include a high quality pedestrian/bicycle connection between the Midtown Greenway and Lake Street; a two-level transit station at Lake Street serving Orange Line BRT and express buses at the freeway level and local bus service along Lake Street; and added vehicle access to Lake Street businesses from both northbound and southbound I-35W.
Other future projects include several new pedestrian/bicycle bridges over I-35W; new noise walls, pavement, streetscaping, landscaping, and street artwork along the corridor; and continuation of the managed lanes on I-35W. One of the most extensive plans is for the installation of the METRO Orange Line bus rapid transit (BRT) line between Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington, and Burnsville. The Orange Line – which has been approved and is in the project development phase – will greatly improve public transit along the I-35 corridor by enhancing access, service, and reliability. The new BRT would run every 10 minutes at peak frequency and every 15 minutes at off-peak frequency. Additional benefits of BRT are limited stops (but more frequent service), longer green lights with signal priority, pre-boarding fare payment, and curb extensions for speed and space. Implementation is expected for 2019.
All in all, the open house proved that the Green Line was just the beginning of transportation improvements in the Twin Cities and that there is much to look forward to in the future.