Hennepin and 1st avenues conversion will make it easier to get into and around Downtown

Starting very soon, drivers coming over the Hennepin Avenue Bridge into Downtown will be able to keep on going all the way down Hennepin through Downtown. There wont be any need to jog over a block, and then back, to keep going south. If youre coming off Interstate 394 on 12th Street, you’ll soon have the option to keep on driving straight up 1st Avenue, instead of having to go out of your way.

These are just two examples of how Downtown driving will become simpler and more convenient once Hennepin and 1st avenues are converted to two-way streets. The conversion means many drivers will be able to get more directly to their destinations, because two-way streets decrease the need for "around the block" trips drivers experience with one-ways.

The changeover is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10. If the weather cooperates, crews will start re-striping and re-signing Hennepin Avenue in the early morning hours. The work is expected to be complete in the morning, and Hennepin will begin carrying two-way traffic. 1st Avenue will then be closed (with traffic diverted to Hennepin and maintained on the cross streets) as crews complete work on that street. The work to 1st Avenue should be finished in the afternoon.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, two of Downtown’s most heavily traveled streets will carry two-way traffic, making them even more accessible, vibrant "main streets" for Minneapolis. The streets were historically two-way streets, like most city streets, but were converted to one-ways in 1980 because of concerns about air quality. Because of dramatic improvements in vehicle emissions since then, Minneapolis is able to make the change back.

Putting down new lane striping and installing the necessary signage are the last steps in a one-year process to make this improvement to Downtown. Business leaders encouraged the change because they’ve seen that in some other cities, converting key one-way streets to two-way streets improved the environment for businesses and their customers.

To prepare for the conversion, Minneapolis Public Works crews have seal coated the street to create a smooth new surface free of old pavement markings, installed new traffic signals, and made some changes to the street layout in two areas. As the date of the change neared, drivers began to see electronic messaging signs letting them know about the conversion. Public meetings, posters in businesses, signs on the street, a website, and online and telephone recordings are also helping people find out more about the benefits of the change.

Bicyclists and pedestrians will see important enhancements. New traffic signals will include pedestrian countdown timers, and bike lanes on 1st Avenue, shared bus/bike/right turn lanes on Hennepin Avenue, and new "bike boxes" will make bicycling more efficient and attractive to commuters.

City leaders approved this change in 2007, as part of the City's 10-year transportation plan. Since that time, nearly 30 meetings have been held with the public, property owners, and businesses along the corridor to prepare for the change. A series of public meetings helped determine the final layout of the two-way streets, with input from drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the best way to make the change a success.

These two-way conversions are components of a much larger plan involving the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Metro Transit, and others, that is transforming how people get into and around Downtown. Other improvements becoming a reality in 2009 include the completion of the Marquette and 2nd avenues transit corridors, the opening of Northstar Commuter Rail, and an extension of the Hiawatha Light Rail line. These and other improvements coming soon will result in a Downtown that’s more accessible, greener, and easier to get around.

To learn more about the Hennepin and 1st conversion, and to get information on the bigger transportation transformation that’s happening Downtown, visit www.TransformingMinneapolis.org . On the website, you can find information on projects, renderings and videos, and audio files you can listen to to learn more about transportation improvements. You can also hear a series of recorded phone messages on the improvements by calling (612)673-2424.

October 9, 2009

Published Oct 9, 2009