Hennepin Ave redesign restricting parking, adding bus lanes heads to full council vote

A game of cat-and-mouse between business owners, public officials and transportation advocates all lobbying for what they think is best for construction on a stretch of Hennepin Avenue in Uptown took another step toward resolution Thursday evening.

On June 9, the Minneapolis Public Works and Infrastructure Committee discussed both the contentious redesign and the council’s authority to make the plans a reality, before ultimately sending the latest version to a full council vote on June 16. The committee technically deleted the agenda item involving parking spaces at last night’s meeting – political maneuvering that effectively sends the issue back to the full council.

The redesign and reconstruction of one of the city's busiest streets has been in the works for a while. Public Works previously unveiled its final recommendation that proposed cutting vehicle lanes down to two, adding 24/7 dedicated transit lanes, and a two-way protected bike lane between Lake and Franklin. 

In its wake, the design leaves behind approximately 20 parking spots, for which businesses along the street have been fighting

However, questions remain regarding the city council’s authority to create a right-of-way along the avenue, and whether or not the existence of dedicated bus lanes are effective modes of mass transportation. 

"Although it’s well-intentioned the concern I have is that we’re going to end up with stop-and-go traffic. All it’s going to take is one person parking in that [dedicated bus] lane for that to impact operations and leave busses waiting," said council member and committee chair Andrew Johnson. "We’re going to have people being ticketed, traffic backed up, and it’s going to be a mess – and we don’t really have any example of this working successfully yet. The idea is that within a couple years we will figure it out, but I think that is backwards… I feel like this is set-up where people might be promised one thing, and getting another."

The hours in which the dedicated and restricted lanes would be enforced has not been determined yet, according to Johnson.

However, council members Robin Wonsley and Aisha Chughtai, remained adamant that 24/7 dedicated bus lanes remain part of the plan.

"Let’s not lose site of the bigger picture that this is a badly needed reconstruction," Johnson said.