35W Freeway Lid and Air Rights Development

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
mattaudio
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35W Freeway Lid and Air Rights Development

Postby mattaudio » October 26th, 2012, 3:35 pm

We all probably think the Washington trench is excessive, and that 35W severs the West Bank from downtown. Here's my revised idea:
http://goo.gl/maps/cfzbD
Edit: easiest to view in map mode

Advantages:
- Reduction in long term maintenance liabilities... fewer actual bridges and ramps to maintain, much simpler split diamond interchange design
- Reconnects the grid in many places; removes vehicular demand from Washington Blvd due to moving 35W ramps
- Basically eliminates the Washington trench for vehicular purposes
- Good circulation for high-volume movements via left-hand ramps to 35W (Washington Ave bridge to 35W south, and Downtown to 35W north)
- New park above 35W
- Many blocks of development on the reconnected grid, on air rights over 35W and on other blocks
- Reduces traffic/lanes on Cedar Ave and allows for organic growth as a West Bank main street
- Compatible with existing Green Line and 35W grades

mplsjaromir
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Re: West Bank

Postby mplsjaromir » October 26th, 2012, 4:38 pm

Very cool.

talindsay
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Re: West Bank

Postby talindsay » October 27th, 2012, 5:49 am

I'm not so sure about Third, but I'd really like to see Fourth / Riverside reconnected. In its current state Riverside is this odd orphaned major artery between two freeways, and living in Seward I'd like to see the better access to downtown that would come with connecting it.

Unless things change dramatically for the better, covering up freeways with parks isn't something that's even worth wishing for: it's phenomenally expensive, and getting more expensive all the time; and the resulting land has no active value, meaning no possibility of sharing the costs.

If we want to heal the wounds of the highways (and I do!) then I think there are a few more workable ways of accomplishing that:

One is to fill the space between the trenches and the grid with buildings facing the grid, with their backsides to the trenches, that completely block the visual cue that there's a highway there. This could (and should) be done with no real extra costs to the developers, and can be incentivized by zoning alone in certain heavy-demand areas; in lower-demand areas the City could at least offer TIF financing, and/or offer to provide utility connections and noise abatement. A nice thing about this type of construction is that it can even be residential, if built right. We don't have any great examples of this in the City, though the GrandMarc comes pretty close to doing this and could easily be integrated into a more thorough attempt to do this.

Another is to build construction on actual bridges lining either side of a grid bridge over the trenches. For obvious reasons this needs to be commercial, not residential, and probably needs to be small-scale one- or two-story construction. No examples in the Twin Cities, of course, but a few examples in the US. The challenge with this is that no single-story construction can ever recoup the costs of this type of construction, so it takes heavy taxpayer subsidies. Still, the bridges aren't *that* expensive, and if strategically done it can go a long way toward hiding the trenches and healing the neighborhoods. While 19th isn't in my opinion a good candidate for this, I think Cedar is an excellent candidate. If I had a $100 million grant to give I'd prioritize trying this on Cedar as I think it could be transformative.

A third option is a simple bridge plaza, spanning part of the trench while leaving enough uncovered to not hit the regulations for tunnel air circulation and the like. There's already one on the West Bank, of course, and it's hard to imagine how one could be extended westward here. Target Plaza is a better model of what this kind of freeway trench looks like with today's regulations; and that's not a bad compromise. Again though, it's all cost with no potential to recoup the costs and an ongoing maintenance expense.

The final option is what you see in truly big cities but are unlikely to see here: major high-rise construction that simply spans the trench. There is an excellent example of this in Boston, and it's not uncommon in Europe (Paris has numerous examples of this in La Defense and over by the Bibliotheque National). When a building reaches a scale that it can simply span the trench, then the additional costs of doing so become relatively low compared to the project costs overall. But of course, for this to be profitable in even a semi-free-market environment, densities and land costs must be much higher than they are here, and demand for large-footprint construction must be quite high. Downtown would have to push all the way to the freeways at its high-density core levels before this became worthwhile, and that doesn't seem likely ever to happen.

Anyway, with all that stated, as an employee on the West Bank my realistic 10-year hope is to see development along the edges of the trench, facing away from the trench to restore a street feel that doesn't acknowledge its presence. If such development hugs right against the roadway at the bottom of the trench, then the gaps between trench-side buildings and the light rail station entrances on the bridges will be small enough that the bridges themselves will feel less like bridges and more like short spans of undeveloped parcels. That would be an improvement; because right now the bridges are very isolating. At least they aren't scary to cross any more; ten years ago the bridges gave a sense of danger and even just before the LRT improvements they felt much too exposed to traffic.

mattaudio
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Re: West Bank

Postby mattaudio » October 27th, 2012, 10:14 pm

It just seems like the trench is getting in the way... of course these air rights development ideas wouldn't need to happen right away, but reconnecting the grid via 3rd/4th across 35W makes a lot of sense. Also, the existing one-ways provide a good connection to the Washington bridge to replace the roadway in the trench.

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Re: West Bank

Postby eluko » October 28th, 2012, 3:09 am

I think it would be great to see this implemented. Though I'd fill in the whole trench west of 19th. Also extend 3rd St west of cedar and east into the bridge. If the land from the trench could be developed, this area could make downtown east an easier and more attractive place to invest in.

mattaudio
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Re: West Bank

Postby mattaudio » October 31st, 2012, 10:00 am

eluko, that's also a good possibility, connecting the bridge directly to a two-way 3rd street to Downtown. I left 3rd and 4th a one way couplet because I thought traffic would demand it (especially if the Washington interchange was closed in favor of pushing downtown-to-35W traffic to 3rd/4th.

WRT the trench, I basically do show it filled in with the exception of the Green Line, which would be hidden underneath all of this (someday). There's no reason the roadway part of the trench can't be removed. I show the traffic FROM the east bank turning into a westbound 3rd street, and I show the traffic TO the east bank turning off 4th St at 16th Av.

I'm sure the existing Washington Ave and 3rd/4th interchanges will need major refurbishment in the next decade or two, and it would make sense if we had a vision that reconnects the neighborhood so we can follow that vision as much as is feasible when that major investment comes due. From a financial perspective, I have to imagine it would be more cost effective in the long term to convert 3rd/4th to a split diamond interchange, instead of maintaining the existing low-use flyover, the land-hog loop ramp, a diamond at Washington, and all the other bridges in this area.

planetxan
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Re: West Bank

Postby planetxan » June 25th, 2013, 2:32 pm

4th street cannot be connected because the light rail track is in the way. If 3rd street were connected, it would eliminate the need for all the ramps to 35W, including the entrance ramp from Cedar. That opens up a lot of land and a lot possibilities.

mattaudio
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Re: West Bank

Postby mattaudio » June 25th, 2013, 2:57 pm

Check out the streets.mn post that resulted from all this discussion in the Washington Ave thread.
https://streets.mn/2013/01/22/addressin ... rhood-gap/

planetxan
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Re: West Bank

Postby planetxan » June 25th, 2013, 3:13 pm

mattaudio wrote:Check out the streets.mn post that resulted from all this discussion in the Washington Ave thread.
https://streets.mn/2013/01/22/addressin ... rhood-gap/
I remember seeing that, but, like I said, 4th St cannot be reconnected with the LRT track there. Nor, 15th Ave. The track is too high to go under and too low to be at street level. But there is nothing stopping reconnecting 3rd and removing all those ramps, as a start.

mattaudio
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Re: West Bank

Postby mattaudio » June 25th, 2013, 3:18 pm

I think it would be possible if the intersection of 15th Ave and 4th Street S was raised slightly. It would be a little weird for Mixed Blood but I'm sure it's workable.

planetxan
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Re: West Bank

Postby planetxan » June 25th, 2013, 3:47 pm

Here is a bird's eye. You would need at minimum about 14 ft clearance from rail to wire. That would take out driveway and alley access, as well as enclose the Mixed Blood.

I'm not trying to rain on your parade route. It should have been connected. But the LRT line shouldn't have been built there. It should have branched off downtown before going into the trench. Then it would not have crossed traffic and these streets could have been made whole again. But the nature of this business is you have to live with decades long mistakes. There are not many redos.
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stp1980
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Re: West Bank

Postby stp1980 » June 26th, 2013, 6:48 am

It would be nice if we could bury the freeways. Not necessarily big dig style but a couple of blocks here and there. This area would be good as well as I 94 in saint Paul between DT and the capitol. $$$ probably prevents this though.

mullen
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Re: West Bank

Postby mullen » June 26th, 2013, 7:44 am

between loring park and the walker also...and while we're at get rid of our ugly viaducts...dare to dream. oh well.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: West Bank

Postby RailBaronYarr » June 26th, 2013, 8:26 am

Didn't froggie use quite a bit of GIS data/info to make sure the final proposal would work for the 35W cover and street grid reconnection?

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mister.shoes
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Re: West Bank

Postby mister.shoes » June 26th, 2013, 8:32 am

He did. He wasn't able to make 4th connect to Riverside, though. 15th crosses the LRT cleanly, but 4th intersects 15th just north of the Riverside-15th intersection.
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RailBaronYarr
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Re: West Bank

Postby RailBaronYarr » June 26th, 2013, 3:16 pm

^Right, sorry I was confusing who was proposing what at this intersection. Seemed like planetxan was saying the connection from 4th to 15th couldn't be done, either. I can't believe either with 100% certainty (I am no planner...), but a plan put forward based on GIS info stating 4th and 15th could connect seems trustworthy. Even if 4th couldn't connect to Riverside OR 15th, the plan is still a huge improvement in overall grid connectivity from DTE to WB.

winnebago
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Re: West Bank

Postby winnebago » June 28th, 2013, 10:59 am

May be a repost, but did you guys see this:

http://www.startribune.com/local/minnea ... page=1&c=y

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Re: West Bank

Postby twincitizen » June 28th, 2013, 11:43 am

That is great news. I hadn't heard that Hennepin County was doing a 4-3 conversion here, for the express purpose of widening sidewalks and reducing crossing distance, no less. Good on them. It's been a tough couple of construction years for the area, with 2+ years of Riverside Avenue reconstruction, Green Line construction, Riverside Plaza rehab, and so on. Now this project, and the 15th Ave area reconstruction next year, plus that new apartment complex (and future phase) behind Mixed Blood Theater looks like another couple years of construction lie ahead.

Honestly, what this area needs more than anything is some market-rate housing. It needs more balance and a better mix of incomes to make sure it continues to prosper. It is already a pretty successful area when you consider the overwhelmingly low income residents in the area. The West Bank Business Association has played a huge role in turning this area around and marketing it as a single, cohesive district. I'd like to see the U put another dorm over here too. There simply isn't a whole lot of nearby housing available for the thousands of students who primarily make use of the West Bank campus. (Law School, Carlson, Humphrey, Music, Art, Social Sciences, etc.)

Personal anecdote: I ate at Afro Deli last week while waiting for my bike to be ready over at Freewheel, and let me tell you, it was fantastic. I got a huge falafel sandwich for a pretty good price. I'll definitely go back and try something more adventurous.

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woofner
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Re: West Bank

Postby woofner » June 28th, 2013, 1:33 pm

This is great news, although in the spirit of a gossipy internet forum I'll mention that I heard that this was mostly CPED's initiative and that the County had to be dragged into it kicking and screaming (I'd guess through McLaughlin's influence though that wasn't part of what I heard).
The preliminary plan for Cedar Avenue is to narrow the street from four lanes to three with one in each direction and a center turn lane. The sidewalks will be widened to meet federal access standards for the disabled.
The 850' segment between Riverside and 6th has only one curbcut. Neither Riverside west of Cedar nor 6th St east of Cedar are high-volume roadways, so they don't warrant a long turn lane. Hopefully rather than a continuous center left turn lane they will have either a median or (preferably) wider sidewalks for most of this segment.
Design plans get tricky because the county wants to preserve trees lining the roadway. “If you start knocking down the trees, you lose your whole idea of what that area is,” Brisk said.
Aren't most of those trees rather scrubby honeylocusts? Those trees are too frail to last a long time, as I witnessed when the one in front of my apt blew down last weekend. Seems like a bad trade to compromise a design with a 60 year lifespan for a tree with a 20 year lifespan.
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talindsay
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Re: West Bank

Postby talindsay » June 28th, 2013, 1:48 pm

redisciple wrote:Aren't most of those trees rather scrubby honeylocusts? Those trees are too frail to last a long time, as I witnessed when the one in front of my apt blew down last weekend. Seems like a bad trade to compromise a design with a 60 year lifespan for a tree with a 20 year lifespan.
Maybe we should ask the trees what they think.


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