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Washington Avenue (reconstruction, restriping, etc.)

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 7:30 am
by helsinki
To begin, a reminder that 5 years have passed since "Washington Boulevard" made a splash and then was never heard from again:

http://www.aia-mn.org/_assets/pdf/Wash% ... -12-07.pdf

The only serious push that I know of recently to improve the built environment of the street comes from the Minneapolis Bike Coalition:

http://mplsbike.org/media/press-release ... arking-day

In an ideal world, the upcoming street reconstruction would eliminate one traffic lane in each direction (there are currently 3, plus a left turn lane, and a median) and expand the sidewalks commensurately.

There are good and bad sidewalks; hopefully any sidewalk widening and reconstruction includes elements such as
(1) hardy street trees, allowed sufficiently loose (not-compacted) soil so that they can grow to maturity, accompanied by (2) a storm water tree trench (the reconstructed University Avenue has these as part of the Central Corridor - brilliant idea), (3) granite curbs - they look much, much better and last much, much longer (4) pervious sidewalk pavers - these allow water to seep through (preventing puddles/flooding is, I think, really important to a good sidewalk), and (5) sleek, easily maintained street furniture that promotes safety through good lighting and provides information such as transit maps (my model is the Grimshaw bus stops in NYC: http://static.dezeen.com/uploads/2007/0 ... sshelt.jpg).

I have a number of other ideas, but this is the most important. The sidewalks are truly terrible at present and the street is too wide.

Anyway, hopefully someone else has some good ideas on how to improve Washington. It is a critical route, full of potential. Sadly, it is a weak link in downtown. For walking, biking, and transit, it is massively underperforming. Changing this will probably require changing some important minds about how automobile friendly Washington really needs to be.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 8:52 am
by SixOneTwo
Two public meetings will be held to seek public input on the future design of Washington Ave. At the first meeting in December, information about existing uses, challenges and opportunities will be presented and the public will be asked to comment on the implications and potential modifications of alternatives. A second meeting will be held in early 2013 that will seek public input on urban design features (streetscaping and landscaping) for the corridor.

The first meeting will be held December 4, 2012, 5:00pm – 7:00pm, at Open Book.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 9:05 am
by Nathan
They plan to do the section from Hen to 5th first starting in 2014, which is a good start but doesn't really reach Mill City or DT East. I'd hope the latter wouldn't be far behind since they talk about wanting to make Washington a more seamless gap from seven corners.

Website

Flyer

The flyer shows lots of trees and people walking/biking strollers all that good stuff...

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 11:18 am
by Aville_37
Agreed Fotoapparatic - better if they didn't do it piece meal but all at once. Also wish they'd expand the plans into the 7 Corners area, but I believe 7 Corners may be covered by improvements planned for Cedar Ave./Riverside, etc. with everything going on with the Green Line.

I truly hope they don't skimp on design elements. I see huge potential for Washington. Would love to see better planted/lighted medians and public art. Chicago is finishing up it's streetscape improvements to Congress Parkway and would love to see something similar. The second link is to an article about LED bollards in the medians. Very cool!!

http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/da ... ct2010.pdf

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012 ... t-attarian

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 11:41 am
by mattaudio
The best improvement for Washington Ave would be getting rid of the interchange at I-35W, and moving the I-35W interchange to a split diamond at 3rd and 4th Streets.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 12:05 pm
by Nathan
Aville_37 wrote:Agreed Fotoapparatic - better if they didn't do it piece meal but all at once. Also wish they'd expand the plans into the 7 Corners area, but I believe 7 Corners may be covered by improvements planned for Cedar Ave./Riverside, etc. with everything going on with the Green Line.

I truly hope they don't skimp on design elements. I see huge potential for Washington. Would love to see better planted/lighted medians and public art. Chicago is finishing up it's streetscape improvements to Congress Parkway and would love to see something similar. The second link is to an article about LED bollards in the medians. Very cool!!

http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/da ... ct2010.pdf

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012 ... t-attarian
I think 7 Corners is also getting some sort of improvement from this, but maybe not the green line.

I'm mostly referring to the 15 year plan that the downtown council put together adding big blvds on the washington ave bridge making it seem more pedestrian and bike friendly.

I wouldn't mind the section from hen to 5th having one set of design themes, and the area from 5th to 35w to have another design theme, but I really think the latter needs it more.

The congress pkwy project is one that mpls could definitely look to for examples!

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 12:52 pm
by helsinki
Thanks for the info about the meetings.

Yes, those LED 'bollards' are a clever idea; never seen that before.

The gap between the center and seven corners is preposterous. On the other end, the 'cut' makes a less complete but still harsh gap between the north loop and the center. Washington is the central street of three very distinct neighborhoods (DTE, North Loop, 7 Corners); it's almost laughable how disconnected they are given their close proximity.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 2:09 pm
by John21
fotoapparatic wrote: I think 7 Corners is also getting some sort of improvement from this, but maybe not the green line.
I almost got hit by a car on Wednesday at 7 Corners!

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 16th, 2012, 6:13 pm
by web
7 corners is like 3 corners now.....when I was at the U 79-84 it was already only 5 corners....

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: November 17th, 2012, 12:52 am
by seanrichardryan
Needs more corners!

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 9:29 am
by PhilmerPhil

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 10:01 am
by helsinki
Great.

It seems like minds are focused in the right direction:

"The City has determined that traffic volumes warrent five traffic lanes instead of seven in most segments of the corridor. This leaves more space for bicycle lanes, a wider sidewalk and greening, so the public will not have to choose between one or the other." [emphasis mine]

Still work to do, though. Sad to hear about 5 lanes (instead of 4). This likely means everyone still thinks a left turn lane is needed (a good blog post here, reference stolen from Strong Towns, about why center turn lanes are terrible: http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/11/27/f ... ost-space/).

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 11:00 am
by mnmike
Umm, I'm sorry, but Washington would be a huge mess with no turn lanes...they are very necessary. Also, it isn't like the turn lanes are taking the place of landscaped (but very poorly maintained...only weeded like twice a year)medians, there will be landscaped medians and turn lanes.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 11:06 am
by helsinki
mnmike wrote:Umm, I'm sorry, but Washington would be a huge mess with no turn lanes...they are very necessary.
Why? Left turn arrows with correct signal timing would facilitate left-turning just as well.

The turn lane is just about privileging traffic flow. Instead of needing to wait 15 seconds for the left-turn arrow light to finish, the traffic headed straight can proceed simultaneously. This speeds up traffic, making for an environment hostile to pedestrians.

We can't have our cake and eat it too (attempting this creates the aptly named STROAD). Cars are, and will remain, an important part of the mix. But if the design of the street revolves around efficient vehicular circulation, walking, biking, and transit will all suffer and continue in their subordinate role.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 11:22 am
by nordeast homer
I agree with mnmike, have you ever traveled eastbound on Washington during rush hour? They have a left turn lane AND a turn signal and the traffic still backs up into the regular flow of traffic. I still maintain that this is going to f#@* up traffic worse than it already is. You can study all you want, but when you take a road that is already at capacity during rush hour and remove two lanes, the traffic doesn't magically disappear. Simply suggesting that people take mass transit or ride bikes doesn't mean they will, and narrowing roads isn't the answer. You are simply telling businesses you would like to make it more difficult to get their employees to work. These kind of moves may make a small segment of people want to live downtown, but unless an employers work force lives downtown you are making the decision to move to a suburb more appealing.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 11:28 am
by MNdible
Comparing this to the examples in the link above is apples-and-oranges. The Strong town Guy is talking about semi-rural or semi-suburban locations with much lower traffic volumes and much lower levels of left-turn activity. Washington Avenue is a whole other beast.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 11:33 am
by mattaudio
The way it stands, Washington needs turn lanes, even if it makes it stroady. But unfortunately this is the prime connection from 35W to downtown.

A better strategy would be to create a split diamond interchange at 3rd and 4th Streets, for connection to the Washington Ave bridge AND downtown, and then cut off the interchange at Washington. Along with some reconnection of the street grid, this would reduce peak traffic demand on Washington Ave.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 12:21 pm
by Tyler
nordeast homer wrote:I agree with mnmike, have you ever traveled eastbound on Washington during rush hour?
With the new 35W N ramp from 4th there won't be any reason at all for people to use Washington.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 12:22 pm
by helsinki
nordeast homer wrote:when you take a road that is already at capacity during rush hour and remove two lanes, the traffic doesn't magically disappear. Simply suggesting that people take mass transit or ride bikes doesn't mean they will, and narrowing roads isn't the answer. You are simply telling businesses you would like to make it more difficult to get their employees to work. These kind of moves may make a small segment of people want to live downtown, but unless an employers work force lives downtown you are making the decision to move to a suburb more appealing.
Over 40% of commuters to downtown already ride Metro Transit. That percentage will only increase as transit options improve, while gas gets more expensive.

People respond to incentives. If you make it impossible to walk around, the bus stops don't have shelters, the bus is overpriced, it's often late, and you can't bike to work because there are no shower facilities, then - yeah, "simply suggesting that people take mass transit or ride bikes doesn't mean they will." I think many people drive, however, not because they desire to do so, but because there is no alternative.

If you want to provide an alternative, you have to alter the built environment - like Washington Avenue. It's a tautology to say "most people get to work by car, therefore we need to make it easy to get to work by car." It's never going to be easy to get to work via some other mode of transportation if changes aren't made to the street-scape.

Re: Washington Avenue

Posted: December 3rd, 2012, 12:28 pm
by Tyler
mattaudio wrote:The way it stands, Washington needs turn lanes, even if it makes it stroady. But unfortunately this is the prime connection from 35W to downtown.

A better strategy would be to create a split diamond interchange at 3rd and 4th Streets, for connection to the Washington Ave bridge AND downtown, and then cut off the interchange at Washington. Along with some reconnection of the street grid, this would reduce peak traffic demand on Washington Ave.
Yep. Even though it's always faster to cut over to 3rd on Chicago, people still take Washington all the way in from 35. Couldn't a new exit be created from SB 35 to connect up with the NB 35 to 3rd St exit? Or are there elevation/space issues there? (Let me know if I'm being unclear)