1st Precinct Inspector Mike Sullivan (joined by Mayor Betsy Hodges) announcing the late-night traffic plan for the Warehouse District at the Fine Line Music Cafe. Photo by Dylan Thomas

1st Precinct Inspector Mike Sullivan (joined by Mayor Betsy Hodges) announcing the late-night traffic plan for the Warehouse District at the Fine Line Music Cafe. Photo by Dylan Thomas

City plans test of late-night traffic plan for Warehouse District

Updated: October 31, 2016 - 10:01 am

Pilot project scheduled for busy Halloween weekend

The City of Minneapolis and its police department have chosen busy Halloween weekend to test a new late-night traffic-management plan for the Warehouse District.

The pilot project aims to improve traffic flow and enhance safety in the entertainment zone, ground zero for the city’s club scene. From Friday through Sunday nights, additional traffic control agents will be deployed to control who can enter a roughly three-square-block area during the hours before and after 2 a.m. bar close.

“This traffic plan is going to contribute to our overall public safety plan,” said Inspector Mike Sullivan, who heads the department’s downtown First Precinct.

Sullivan said the additional traffic control agents would allow other officers working in the area around bar close to focus on the safety of bar and club patrons. The traffic control agents will be joined by business licensing inspectors who will be checking the permitting of drivers for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Other parts of the pilot project include a new no-parking or stopping area on South 3rd Street between Hennepin and North 2nd avenues. The permanent parking restrictions are in effect 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekend nights. A new food truck area near the intersection of 6th & 1st is meant split up crowds that now concentrate at just a few late-night eateries in the area.

Sullivan said recurring late-night violence “is a challenge” in the Warehouse District and that traffic is a “significant contributor.”

Minneapolis Downtown Council President and CEO Steve Cramer said “the entertainment scene downtown is vibrant and multi-faceted” and that everyone who visits “rightfully expects to have a fun and safe experience.”

“This is an important part of our economy and an important part of what distinguishes us as a core city,” Cramer said at a press conference held Tuesday morning at Fine Line Music Café to announce the pilot project.

But the system for managing pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic around 2 a.m. bar close hasn’t kept up with the times, he said, noting that it’s basically unchanged from the period before the arrival of light rail and ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber.

Late-night motor-vehicle access to Hennepin and 1st avenues is already restricted between 3rd and 6th streets. Only Uber and Lyft drivers, taxis, limos and Metro Transit buses will be allowed to enter the restricted zone around bar close and then only via Hennepin and First avenues at the four access points where the traffic control agents will be stationed.

“We believe those additional agents are going to really make a difference with regard to moving traffic,” Sullivan said.

Motor-vehicle and pedestrian traffic is expected to be busier than usual on the weekend leading up to Halloween.

“We know that it will be busy and that’s one of the reasons we picked this weekend,” Sullivan said, adding that, after this test, elements of the pilot project would likely return to the area next spring.

Cramer said the pilot project grew out of an ongoing collaboration between the city and downtown businesses that also produced last year’s Hospitality Zone Assessment. Mayor Betsy Hodges said the city was committed to tackling some of the challenges of the Warehouse District.

“My goal is to ensure that the city is pulling all the levers we can to make sure that everyone who visits Downtown Minneapolis has an inviting and vibrant experience,” Hodges said. “We want to have a weekend nighttime experience that works for everyone.”