As construction of the Central Corridor light rail train gets into full swing, many changes have already started to appear on Washington Avenue and University Avenue. As a University of Minnesota student, I come into contact with the construction daily. Some construction has caused sidewalk closures, forcing pedestrians to change their routes. Also, traffic has been squeezed into single lanes, making travel times longer.
On February 6, Washington Avenue Bridge traffic was reduced to one lane both ways. The lanes will shift depending on what side of the bridge is being renovated, but the bridge will have only two lanes until 2012. The south half of the walking portion of the bridge will be closed starting March, 5, shifting foot traffic to the side used by bikers. As the weather improves and more students walk outside the covered portion of the bridge, along with bikers pulling their bikes out of storage, foot traffic could get interesting.
The East Bank area on campus has seen plenty of construction work recently in Stadium Village, where utility companies have set up work sites in the roads to move underground utilities. The corner of Oak Street and Washington Avenue is where most work is currently being done, with traffic reduced to one lane in all directions and large barricades in the road, causing some portions of sidewalk to close. Pedestrians cannot walk down the south side of Washington without crossing the road at Oak.
On University Avenue east of the University of Minnesota, utility relocation has already been underway. Heavy construction will begin in the second week of March, between Emerald Street in Minneapolis and Hampden Avenue in St. Paul. This will include temporary traffic lights and road barriers, shifting traffic, and removing some on-street parking. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in both directions in this stretch. Bus stops have already begun to shift, with the utility relocation in progress.
Sophomore Tony Raeker said, “I’m fine with the construction as long as it doesn’t affect my travel too much. It’s unfortunate I don’t get to use the train while I’m here, but I have to deal with the construction.”
While local businesses at the corner of Oak and Washington are in the middle of the construction, most of their business comes from foot traffic. An employee at Chipotle says that the construction has not affected business very much. The Chipotle was still packed after the final Gopher basketball home game on Sunday.
According to Metro Transit, bus stop closures and work on Washington Avenue that began on March 1 will continue through the month. Any new closures are not expected until the beginning of April. Buses are not currently stopping at Oak Street on Washington Avenue. Also, campus busses which usually use Oak Street to get between Mariucci Arena and Washington Avenue are using Ontario Street to complete the route, extending ride times slightly.
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.