Minneapolis Mayor Frey vetoes Hennepin Ave redesign, 24-hour bus lanes

The current rendering of the Hennepin Avenue redesign proposed through Uptown.

After a battle between council members and businesses over a redesign of Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis to add bike and 24-hour dedicated bus lanes was approved by the Minneapolis City Council, it has now been vetoed.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey sent a letter to council members Friday, informing them that he had vetoed both the layout for the Hennepin Ave S Street Reconstruction Project (between Douglas Ave and W Lake St.) and a resolution directing the City Engineer to establish parking restrictions on Hennepin Ave S between Douglas Ave and W Lake St per the City Council approved layout.

"I continue to support the Public Works recommended layout, which has been unaltered since it was introduced in late 2021. The proposed layout features transit priority lanes, an off-street bikeway, and significant safety improvements – all of which effectively reprioritize how we use public space to improve the lives of Minneapolis residents," Frey said in the letter. "I fully support a bus only lane with specified hours of operation to reduce congestion and vehicle miles traveled. I cannot, however, support keeping bus-only lanes 24-hours a day when buses do not run 24 hours a day. This would ignore the countless small businesses, many of them BIPOC-owned, who compromised both for the presence of a protected bike lane and prioritized bus lanes at the expense of a substantial amount of parking. Many of those same business owners and employees have navigated profound economic stressors ranging from the global pandemic, the civil unrest of 2020, rising inflation, and a workforce shortage. Let's at least show a willingness to work with them."

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.

"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 Public Works committee chair Andrew Johnson at a June 9 meeting. "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."

If approved as-is, the design would leave behind approximately 20 parking spots, for which businesses along the street have been fighting

"We can achieve our shared climate and transit goals while preserving a reasonable number of parking spaces for community businesses by allowing for a flexible operational plan that is capable of offering transit service up to 24-hours a day," Frey said in the letter. "I am urging you to work with my administration and Public Works leadership team to do exactly that. This plan must be driven by metrics such as transit delay, speed, and reliability; corridor operations; and safety."