Big changes coming to downtown transit as MARQ2 heads into final construction
Drivers should prepare for delays as project nears homestretch
March 30, 2009 (MINNEAPOLIS) By the end of the year, buses heading down transit lanes on Marquette and 2nd avenues won’t have to wait behind other buses picking up passengers. When traffic ahead stops, buses will be able to switch to a second transit lane. This will eliminate unnecessary stops and speed up commutes for thousands of transit passengers.
These dual bus lanes, a first in the metro area, are part of a major street construction project nicknamed MARQ2. Crews will be busy this year rebuilding and adding second bus lanes to Marquette and 2nd avenues, from 1st Street to 12th Street Downtown. They’ll also be adding wider sidewalks, better bus shelters and improved streetscapes for pedestrians and people waiting for their bus.
"Riding the bus downtown is about to become a lot more attractive," said Mayor R.T. Rybak. "Before, it could take express buses as much time to get through Downtown as it took them to get to Downtown. With dual bus lanes, commutes will be much faster. This will have even more people thinking about leaving their cars at home."
Shortly after the MARQ2 project is complete, express buses will move from Nicollet Mall to Marquette and 2nd avenues, reducing peak period bus volumes on the mall by about 35 percent. Fewer and quieter buses on Nicollet Mall will make shopping, strolling and dining on the mall an even better experience.
"These are all components of a transportation overhaul we put together called Access Minneapolis," said Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who heads the council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee. "We’re improving the way people get to, from and around Minneapolis, whether it’s by cars, buses, bikes or on foot."
MARQ2 construction, which began in August 2008, needs to be completed by the end of this year. This means street work will continue at an aggressive pace throughout the spring and summer. Construction on both streets will generally move from north to south, and in most cases, streets will be rebuilt first, followed by reconstruction of the adjoining sidewalks.
"While MARQ2 will ultimately improve transportation into Downtown, this year will be a difficult one for drivers," said Minneapolis Public Works Director Steve Kotke. "The ambitious construction schedule for this year means there will be temporary street closures and lane restrictions. We know the end result will be worth the inconvenience, but for now, commuters can help minimize the inconvenience by taking transit, carpooling, biking or walking to work."
The best way drivers can find out about closures and lane restrictions by subscribing to the City's traffic alerts online at Traffic Alerts. The City will also notify the local media about any major traffic impacts so they can share them with the public.
The MARQ2 project is funded as part of a federal grant called the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA), which seeks to reduce traffic congestion. About $32 million of the metro area’s $133 million grant is going towards the MARQ2 project.
"Of course before the joy of greater mobility is achieved, we must suffer the pain of construction both on the freeway and in Downtown," said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. "Let me suggest that Metro Transit can ease that pain by helping you to share a ride. We have buses and trains. But we also have resources to help you find carpool and vanpool partners; we have information on bicycle commuting and telework. Just give us a call."
MARQ2 is just one of the major Downtown transportation projects that will become reality in 2009. Other improvements include:
The conversion of Hennepin and 1st avenues from one-way to two-way streets and new bike lanes on 1st Avenue.
Metro Transit will begin operation of the Northstar Commuter Rail line and an extension of the Hiawatha Light Rail line.
An extension to the Hiawatha LRT Bicycle Trail that will bring the trail into Downtown to connect with 3rd and 4th streets.
To learn more about the City’s broader transportation plan, Access Minneapolis, go to ACCESS Minneapolis.
Published Mar. 30, 2009