An illustration of the BRT station in the median of I-35W.  Credit:

An illustration of the BRT station in the median of I-35W. Credit:

Open houses will provide update on I-35W projects

Updated: April 1, 2016 - 2:55 pm

Planners working on the $150.2 million I-35W Transit/Access Project are holding two open houses in April at the Colin Powell Center to update the community on the project.

The project includes a new bus rapid transit (BRT) station in the median of I-35W near Lake Street; a Green Crescent pedestrian/bicycle connection between the Midtown Greenway and Lake Street; new bridges, a new southbound exit ramp to Lake Street and a new northbound exit ramp to 28th Street.

Construction is expected to start in 2017.

The BRT station at the freeway level is expected to serve 90-100 buses during high traffic times during the work week. Another 25 buses will serve riders traveling in the reverse direction during peak travel times. It will also link riders to bus service on Lake Street and other regional routes.

It would also serve the proposed Orange Line BRT — a 17-mile line linking downtown Minneapolis with Burnsville expected to open in 2019. The line would feature frequent service for riders seven days a week.

The I-35W Transit/Access Project area.

In addition to that project, other major projects are also planned for the area, including the replacement of the I-35W “braid” bridge and the I-35W “flyover” bridge connecting northbound I-35W to I-94 westbound. Work on the $130 million project is also expected to start in 2017.

Additionally, MnDOT is planning to do pavement replacement and other rehab work on I-35W between 42nd and 32nd streets. Again, work will start in 2017 on the $65 million project. Hennepin County is also planning to reconstruct Lake Street between Blaisdell and 5th Avenue.

Hennepin County engineer Jim Grube said project planners are already encouraging commuters to plan ahead and consider telecommuting, car sharing and using transit to ease congestion in the corridor. Construction in the area is expected to last four years.

He said the I-35W Transit/Access Project will go before the Minneapolis City Council and Hennepin County Board in May for approvals.

An environmental assessment document will be available for review beginning Monday, March 28.

The project, which has been in the planning stages for years, has generated a lot of controversy, but planners are hopeful the current plan will have wide support.

Soren Jensen, executive director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, said the organization is pleased to see plans for the Green Crescent bicycle and pedestrian access ramp, but has concerns about the Lake Street connection.

An illustration of the Green Crescent.

“The proposed design for Lake Street under the new I-35W transit station reminds us of the Lake Street-Hiawatha intersection, which is widely acknowledged as a design failure,” he said. “That area is dark, confusing, and uninviting for pedestrians, cyclists, and even people in cars.  The proposed design for Lake Street under the new I-35W transit center looks disturbingly similar.”

Jensen said there are a lot of ideas that should be considered to “humanize” the area, including adding lighting, public art and more active public spaces.

Ricardo McCurley, executive director of Whittier Alliance, said he also has questions about the art budget for the project and what role the community will have in reviewing public art proposals.

Jason Lord, a member of the Midtown Greenway board of director and CARAG’s land use and transportation committee, also has concerns about the lack of community engagement to date for the project and the design plan.

He said he’s worried the project as currently designed will make it more difficult for people to cross Lake Street and further separate neighborhoods on either side of I-35W.

“This project as currently laid out is really Hiawatha and Lake 2.0,” he said, adding that the current design is a “forbidding no-mans land for the transit entrance and Greenway connection.”

Lord agrees with Jensen that a number of changes could make the design more friendly, including adding spaces for small shops and food trucks next to the transit station entrance under the bridge to make it more inviting and vibrant.

“Many large cities have areas of vibrant shops near transit stations, often under overpasses, and this seems like the perfect spot to do it,” he said.

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I-35W Transit/Access Project open houses

When: Tuesday, April 5, 6–8 p.m. & Tuesday, April 19, 6–8 p.m.
Where: Colin Powell Center, third floor, 2941 4th Ave. S.
More info: www.35lake.com