Franklin Avenue looks at Complete Street redesign


Franklin Avenue is getting a much needed makeover.  Part of the makeover: In the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, Franklin has bike lanes for its entirety. From Dupont Avenue in Lowry Hill to Minnehaha Avenue in Seward, Franklin has been been targeted as a top priority for improvement by Bike Walk 2012 Street Solutions, which is administered by Transit for Livable Communities (TLC).  TLC administers the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Project for the Twin Cities, which has allocated $22 million for improvements to local infrastructure.

On Monday, May 7, a public meeting was held by TLC at Phillips Community Center to present ideas for improvement.  Presenters included TLC Bicycling and Walking Program Manager Steve Clark, Toole Design Group Senior Planner Tom Huber, CH2M Hill Planner Mary Gute, and CH2M Hill Traffic Engineer Nikki Farrington.  Also present were Minneapolis City Council Member Robert Lilligren, aides to Council Members Cam Gordon and Meg Tuthill, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Public Works Senior Transportation Engineer Bob Byers with the Bicycle Advisory Committee, Rose Ryan with Minneapolis Public Works, and President and CEO of Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) Andy Hestness.  About 40 people were in attendance, and there were about twenty bikes parked at the west entrance.  After presentations, the meeting broke into small groups to discuss specific geographic areas.

Franklin has high volume in all modes of traffic: pedestrian, cyclist, public transit, and personal motor vehicles.  It also has low levels of service for cyclists and pedestrians, including extremely narrow sidewalks with impediments, inaccessible crossing buttons, non-ADA-compliant curb ramps, bus shelters blocking sightlines, bikes on the sidewalk, uncontrolled intersections, high speed and volume of motorized traffic, and steep hills. Particular trouble spots were identified as the Hiawatha underpass, the I-35W bridge, and Lyndale Avenue.

Hennepin County’s County Road Safety Plan measured crashes from 2005 to 2009.  Franklin had an expected crash rate of 5.6 per million miles travelled and an observed rate of 15/million.  Bicycle crashes were 31.8/10 million and pedestrian crashes were 12.11/10 million.  Tom Huber hopes to reduce the crash rate through “proven safety measures” such as Road Diets; Lane Diets; permanent enforcement; and improvements to signs, signals, and markings.  A study found that the standard Road Diet of converting a standard four-lane, two-way road to a two-lane with left turn lane road (TWLTL) decreased crashes by 44.2%.  The conversion also improves speed limit compliance, increases walking and biking, and increases overall safety.  Road Diets are most effective for roads with less than 20,000 vehicles per day. Present motor vehicle traffic on Franklin ranges from 6,300 to 19,500 per day, on various stretches of the street, with forecast increases to 7,200 to 21,500 in the future, according to the presentation made at the meeting.

After breaking into small groups, the groups presented to the whole.  The east group (Bloomington to Minnehaha) had a consensus to have bikelanes throughout with two motor vehicle lanes in between.  They desired the midblock pedestrian crossing envisioned by NACDI.  They also desired turn lanes.  The central group (Chicago to Bloomington) wished for pedestrian bumpouts to remain but had some concerns about whether slower traffic would increase opportunity for crime.  The west group (Dupont to Chicago) greatly desired the TWLTL conversion.  They wanted improvements to safety at the I-35W bridge, more bike space, and better ADA-compliant sidewalks. (In 2011, Minneapolis completed a makeover of Franklin Avenue from Riverside to the Mississippi River.)

The next steps include a feasibility report, feedback from a selected cross section, more detailed intersection planning, community input, meeting with agencies and neighborhood groups, and another public meeting after all of that.  Changes could be made next year.