Elected officials, city county staff, and representatives from neighbor community, Midtown Greenway Coalition, and Sierra Club North Star Chapter celebrated improvements to Park and Portland Avenues on November 5, with organizers and volunteers from Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition providing breakfast goodies for the public.
According to Ethan Fawley, board president of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, 10 miles of road are being repaved, making it the biggest paving project in Hennepin County history. For more than 50 years, Park and Portland Avenues had three lanes. After doing analysis, City of Minneapolis Biking and Hennepin County Biking advisors found that there was no need to have three lanes. If the road could be narrowed down to two lanes, the traffic would flow just fine. Also, doing this actually gives the road more space for bikers and pedestrians crossing the road and improves safety for the community.
This repaving project was first discussed in April and the work was completed in October. For Park Avenue, changes were made from 46th E street to downtown Washington Avenue. For Portland Ave, changes were made from 60th Street to Minnehaha Creek. The changes were:
1. Lower the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph
2. Biking lanes are wider and all changed to the right side of the road
(An intersection between Portland Ave & Franklin Ave)
3. Vehicles lanes are reduced from 3 lanes to 2 lanes for each avenue.
Fawley also shared his personal experiences as a biker. He said that nearly 95-98 percent of people didn’t feel comfortable biking on Park and Portland Avenues before the improvements, including his wife. “Because there is just one single lane between you and 40 mph traffic,” he said. Though biking from two blocks away from Park Avenue, where he lives, to downtown is the fastest way, “My wife would never bike with me. And now, she and I can ride side by side together and hold hands.”
Betsy Sohn, the manager from Hope Community, Inc, talked about how residents at Hope Community were involved in this project. Staff members at Hope Community held listening sections about lane configuration on Portland Avenue. Many residents supported this project. Sohn said: ”It makes sense for us. The theme we always heard around transportation around this neighborhood is people want a reliable and safe neighborhood.” Keeping parking spaces also is very important for residents who drive.
Brendon Slotterback, a local resident came to this event because he was interested in this public meeting. Both driving and biking a lot on Park Avenue, Slotterback said he noticed the change on the road and he was glad people made this change because it provided more space for bikers and made drivers easily see bikers on the side, which made both safe on the road.