Infrastructure

State Decision on Crosstown Rebuild Advances I-35W Access Project

Ramping Up

Decision on Crosstown Advances I-35W Access Project

June 2005—When the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Transportation resolved their differences over the Crosstown/I-35W interchange this spring, they also announced a comprehensive vision for the I-35W Corridor that includes bus rapid transit (BRT) and improved freeway access at Lake Street.

In 2004, Minneapolis withheld its consent on Crosstown for multiple reasons, including a position that the Crosstown project include a more explicit commitment to bus rapid transit accommodations. City, County, and regional leaders, along with State Representatives Frank Hornstein and Mary Liz Holberg, are promoting BRT along I-35W to connect Lakeville to downtown Minneapolis.

The I-35W Access Project, sponsored jointly by the Phillips Partnership and Hennepin County, focuses on improving freeway connections for commercial thoroughfares and major employers in and around the Phillips neighborhood. Improved freeway access is considered absolutely essential by many South Minneapolis businesses and residents, including those who are investing in the new Midtown Exchange. The Access Project includes new ramps between 28th and 38th Street and mulitple accommodations for BRT.

At the close of 2004, the design process for the Access Project had come to a halt, awaiting resolution of the larger I-35W Corridor discussions and implementation of Governor Pawlenty's commitment of $1 million in state funding for the Access Project design activities.

In March, a special panel recommended that a BRT station at 46th Street be included in the Crosstown project. The panel’s report made several references to the Access Project as part of plansfor the freeway corridor. LieutenantGovernor and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau agreed to the recommendations, ending the stalemate.

Molnau simultaneously announced agreement on how to utilize available funding, including Governor Pawlenty’s October 2003 commitment of $1 million for Access Project design activities.

The Corridor project is likely to include reconstruction of the connections between I-35W and I-94 in the commons area, based on further study.

Molnau also announced that MnDOT will lead the freeway design, while Hennepin County will lead context-sensitive design elements.

The $240-million Crosstown project will begin on schedule in 2006, placing the probable start of Access in 2009.

History of the I-35W Access Project

The Infrastructure initiative represents the Partnership’s commitment to create viable transportation options for and within the Phillips community. The Interstate-35W Access Project proposes to provide full and direct access to and from I-35W in the Lake Street area. Current local access to this major artery of our freeway system is limited and has stifled the economic vitality and opportunities in the Phillips neighborhood. 

Preliminary design plans as approved by the Project Advisory Committee
on November 26, 2002 (4MB pdf).

 

I-35W Access Project documents

Project Summary (20K pdf) 
Project Advisory Committee (20K pdf)
Planning Process (28K pdf) 
Approval Process (40K pdf)
Cost Breakdown (8K pdf)
Preliminary Environmental Assessment Findings for Preferred Alternatives (28K pdf)
What Happens in Detail Design? (8K pdf)
Traffic Projections by Neighborhood (12K pdf)

Mitigations & Enhancement documents

Chapter 1: Introduction (6.4MB pdf)
Chapter 2: Street Character (9.8MB pdf)
Chapter 3: Traffic Management (800K pdf)
Chapter 4: Active Transportation (1.6MB pdf)
Chapter 5: Structures (19MB pdf) 
Chapter 6: Land Use and Urban Design (19MB pdf)
Chapter 7: Preliminary Cost Estimate (350K pdf)
Chapter 8: Final Refinements and Acknowledgments (350K pdf)

In October of 1997, Allina Health System and Abbott Northwestern Hospital co-sponsored a transportation study to obtain viable options to improve accessibility to and from the hospital campuses housed directly in the Phillips Neighborhood, which led to freeway accessibility proposals to be incorporated into the partnership’s infrastructure initiative in 1998. 

In 1998, Congress appropriated $2 million for the design of improved access to and from I-35W, requiring the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin County, and the City to commit $400,000 to fund the required 20% local match. In July of 2001, Congress passed a Supplemental Appropriations Bill in which Congressman Martin Sabo earmarked another $4.7 million for the I-35W Access Project.

Access improvements are essential to supporting revitalization and growth along Lake Street, including surrounding businesses and residential areas. As this revitalization occurs, all modes of traffic — pedestrian, bicycle, cars, bus transit and commercial truck — are expected to increase. The new access proposals include capacity, transit station and urban design improvements.

 

Bird’s eye view of the I-35W Access Project area

“Rebuilding the Phillips community requires reconnecting it, its people and its enterprises to the broader economy. That is my vision; that is the vision of the Phillips Partnership. Reconnection is why we are working for better access to and from I-35W, an essential artery of the regional economy.”
     --Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner

 

Public Involvement

The Project Advisory Committee guides the decision making process and provides community input to project planning. Hennepin County Commissioners appointed committee members representing various neighborhood organizations, business groups, non-profit institutions and economic/environmental groups that will be affected by the work of the project. PAC members recommend the best construction and design options and alternatives to accommodate all interested parties. Based on these recommendations, the Phillips Partnership and Hennepin County will develop proposals to present to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Metropolitan Council for the construction of new access ramps. During a series of public meetings, residents and business owners within project boundaries asked questions and provided feedback on proposed ramp changes and selected preferred alternatives.

  Aaron Isaacs of Metro Transit discusses the Project alternatives with an area resident.

Aaron Isaacs of Metro Transit discusses the Project alternatives with an area resident.

PAC members also formed a Mitigation/Enhancement Subcommittee to ensure mitigation and enhancement measures are incorporated into the eventual Project Design Plan. Subcommittee members established a clear set of purposeful goals early on by reviewing and discussing traffic management and calming measures for local streets potentially affected by the I-35W Access Project. Their mission: Create a project that not only ameliorates the adverse impacts caused by the construction of new highway infrastructure but actually enhances the lives of all the people in the community by improving the safety, well being, and cohesion of their neighborhoods.

Street calming is but one of several mitigation and enhancement measures that will be included within the eventual Project design plans. Other potential enhancements include landscaping and public art. Each mitigation and enhancement measure must respond to the requirements established by the Project Advisory Committee that the Access Project serves to enhance the area and improve current neighborhood conditions. Once the Subcommittee identifies proposed calming measures, project technical consultants will analyze them to determine their feasibility. The PAC will then review the Subcommittee’s recommendations and if adopted, these measures will be incorporated into the overall Project Design Plan.

Rebuilding Lake Street's "Mall of America"

Four Neighborhoods Surrounding Midtown Exchange Express Strong Support for Access and Allina

Letter to Minneapolis City Council submitted by presidents of neighborhood organizations

REBUILDING LAKE STREET’S “MALL OF AMERICA”


Our urban south Minneapolis communities have unraveled over the past 45 years producing at-risk neighborhoods. The reweaving process involves not only looking realistically at the problems but working together with national and local resources to build on the existing assets. Major corporate, government and neighborhood/private business initiated commitments have been made to south Minneapolis in the past 10 years. Here are some of the significant, “industrial-strength” commitments that have happened and are happening:

Portland Place - $13M – investment by Honeywell to build 54 mixed-income homes.

Joseph Selvaggio Initiative - $7M – housing renovation in an eight-block area west of Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Phillips Park Housing Initiative - $15M – funded by Lutheran Social Services and the Phillips Eye Institute – 29 new homeownership townhouses and property improvement.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage - $175M – to renovate and build their campus for 4,400 jobs – many from our neighborhoods.

Abbott Northwestern Hospital - $200M – to build a world-class facility for its cardiology, neurology, orthopedics and spine programs, and campus upgrades.

Midtown Greenway/Bikeway and Transit Linkage - $20M – being developed by Hennepin County using the former Soo Line Railroad corridor.

Colin Powell Youth Leadership Campus - $20M – soccer fields and a program center being developed by Urban Ventures at 4th Avenue and Lake Street

Hope Community - $13M – for 60 units of affordable housing at Children’s Village Center and Hope Community Court and campus development at Franklin and Portland Avenue.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics - $20M – ambulatory and surgical expansion specializing in kids and parking ramp facility. 

Midtown Phillips - $6M – vacant lot reduction program with construction of 40 new single-family homes in the last four years.

Intersection at Bloomington and Lake Street Redevelopment - $17M – 
- El Mercado Central with 47 small Latino businesses - $1M
- Antiques Minnesota Building for medium-sized business and theater - $3.9M
- MeGusta restaurant - $2M
- Jose Lala grocery store - $1.5M
- Guayaquil Ecuadorian restaurant - $1.5M
- East Phillips Commons - $7M – 36 affordable apartment units

Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches - $4.5M – Division of Indian Works and the Russ Ewald Center for Urban Service on Lake Street.

Gesco Construction, Inc. - $19M – scattered privately developed housing in the Phillips neighborhood by local minority-owned contractor.

These and other combined efforts are significant and are designed to act as serious seed projects that will see the rebirth of south Minneapolis to be once again livable, sustainable and safe. There is one major area that remains as a sinkhole until completion: The Sears Complex . . . .the former Lake Street “Mall of America.”

Allina is going to relocate its headquarters. One of their options is the former Sears building. Allina, Abbott Northwestern and the Phillips Eye Institute have long been part of the community healing story of south Minneapolis. Crime rates are lower and poverty is less concentrated because of this health community’s leadership and investment. Together with PPL they have produced a training program that gives many people in our communities living-wage jobs with benefits.

The Allina headquarters at the former Sears site would solidify the 1.2 million-square-foot Midtown Exchange development proposed by Ryan Companies. Allina would be the anchor tenant required to allow the site to be developed faster and with less risk of the development failing. Sears has been vacant for too long. A decision by Allina to locate here would be crucial to our remarkable and difficult neighborhood turnaround story.

The neighborhoods that surround the former Sears site overwhelmingly support Allina locating here. All four neighborhoods, Midtown Phillips, Phillips West, Central and Powderhorn Park have passed resolutions supporting Allina locating here. We all would like to see the former Sears site developed with a high number of jobs, including the 1,250 professional jobs that would come with Allina.

As leaders of the four neighborhoods that intersect at the former Sears site, we want our city leaders to know and appreciate that our community organizations overwhelmingly support Allina locating here. We ask that the Mayor and the City Council do everything in their power to persuade Allina to choose south Minneapolis for its corporate home. We also support Allina’s requirement that the City support the 35W/Lake Street Access Project as one of the conditions for picking Sears. We believe it is time for the City Council vote to support this project.

This is an exciting time in south Minneapolis and these are crucial foundational projects that can continue the process of once again having a thriving set of communities.

Muriel Simmons,

Phillips West

Shirley Heyer, 

Midtown Phillips

Staci Horwitz,

Powderhorn Park

Art Erickson,
Central Neighborhood

"The Allina headquarters at the former Sears site would solidify the 1.2 million-square-foot Midtown Exchange development proposed by Ryan Companies. Allina would be the anchor tenant required to allow the site to be developed faster and with less risk of the development failing. Sears has been vacant for too long. A decision by Allina to locate here would be crucial to our remarkable and difficult neighborhood turnaround story."

The Return of Rail: Full Circle in a Transportation Revolution

The Return of Rail

Full circle in a transportation revolution

  Burning of the last Minneapolis streetcars, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

Burning of the last Minneapolis streetcars, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

  Twin Cities Motor Bus Company bus, Minneapolis, 1935. Photo: Metro Transit

Twin Cities Motor Bus Company bus, Minneapolis, 1935. Photo: Metro Transit

  The last run of the streetcars in Minneapolis, 6th Street and Hennepin, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

The last run of the streetcars in Minneapolis, 6th Street and Hennepin, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

  A horse-drawn trolley car, Riverside Ave in Minneapolis, 1888. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

A horse-drawn trolley car, Riverside Ave in Minneapolis, 1888. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

In the 1870s, a hodgepodge of horse-drawn streetcars in the downtowns, mills and factory districts of Minneapolis and St. Paul gave way to consolidated steam and then electric trolleys. As in growing cities across the country, trolleys transformed nearby farming villages into the first suburbs and created the daily commute. 

Gas-powered buses took hold after the technological proving grounds of World War I, bringing about a quick shift in demand and infrastructure.

Locally, when streetcars peaked in 1920, they provided 220 million rides per year—more than four times the number of rides that Metro Transit bus service provides today to a population nearly three times as large. The Twin Cities metro had one of the most advanced transit systems in the world.

Thirty years later, streetcars in the Twin Cities were on their way out. Transportation planning for the growing region had acceded to the allure of the automobile and the operational efficiencies of bus service.

Today, the region is faced not only with another generation of major growth but also with exurban sprawl. Compared with their forebears in the parkway generation, people caught in the snarls of the contemporary rush hour are less apt to associate car commuting with freedom. In the necessary search for alternatives, transit is again on the rise (Urban Land reports in May 2004 that “virtually every major city has, or is planning, some form of urban rail or rapid bus system”). 

Fittingly, Hiawatha light rail will begin operations nearly 50 years to the day after the last of the Twin Cities’ extensive streetcar system was yanked out of the ground.

"In 1920, the Twin Cities metro had one of the most advanced transit systems in the world."

More on the Twin Cities' history of mass transit:

http://www.startribune.com/stories/368/4827881.html

http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/8951618.htm

LRT Facts

LRT Facts

Hiawatha Line

June 26, 2004, is opening day for Phase 1 of the 12-mile Hiawatha line, 12 stations between the warehouse district in downtown Minneapolis and Fort Snelling. 

In December 2004, Phase 2 will open, extending the line to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and the Mall of America for a total of 17 stations.

Ridership

A weekday average of 20,000 daily trips is expected by mid-2005; half will be combined with bus service.

Forty-six bus routes will tie into LRT by December 2004.


LRT service (all all stops)
- Every 7.5 minutes during peak hours
- Every 15 minutes off-peak weekday
- Every 20 minutes nights, weekends


LRT park & rides
- 600 spaces, 28th and Bloomington
- 900 spaces, Fort Snelling

Lake Street enhancements
With the debut of LRT, the 53 bus will begin limited stop service across Lake Street.

The route will ultimately serve the Lake Street LRT station, the Midtown Exchange complex being developed on the former Sears site at Chicago Ave., and a planned express bus station at 1-35W.

Evaluating the Comps: The Transit Experience in Peer Markets

Evaluating the Comps

The transit experience in peer markets

  • In St. Louis, opposition to LRT was fierce initially. But political will has swung decisively the other way since the debut of the first Metrolink line in 1993 and ridership that has exceeded expectations. St. Louis Metro is now extending its two existing lines and planning a third line, all without federal contribution.
  • Pittsburgh’s streetcar system was the nation’s largest when it closed in the mid 1960s. Twenty years later the Allegheny County Port Authority began operating its modern light rail service, “the T”, which has grown to four lines. The Port Authority also operates three bus rapid transit lines.
  • For overall transit, HoustonDallasDenverPortlandSeattle and Cleveland are “peer markets” with Minneapolis. Metro Transit is more efficient than its peers in rides per dollar of subsidy (paying for 1/3 of bus operations out of the fare box) but provides fewer rides per capita than all.
  • More: Start Tribune: "Transit on Trial"

Train Time: Mike Setzer on the Future of LRT

Train Time

Metro Transit’s outgoing general manager offers his view of light rail’s prospects

  "There she is." Mike Setzer awaits an incoming train at the Lake Street LRT station, May 2004

"There she is." Mike Setzer awaits an incoming train at the Lake Street LRT station, May 2004

June 2004—On a windy spring day Mike Setzer paced the platform of the Hiawatha LRT station at Lake Street, rattling off answers to questions about the new rail service. It was all in a day’s work to be asked these same questions over and again.

Of plans and specs and schedules he was a master, but as he walked he watched his feet. He carefully brushed his hand over the station’s computerized fare card machines, the steel benches and the glass partitions, all squarely bolted in place. 

  A southbound Hiawatha line car arrives at the Lake Street station with downtown Minneapolis as the backdrop.

A southbound Hiawatha line car arrives at the Lake Street station with downtown Minneapolis as the backdrop.

Metro Transit’s $715 million experiment was close to completion, but the physical reality seemed less familiar than the theory. As Setzer described the overhead heaters on the platform that would warm commuters in winter like so many cafeteria dishes, his look was introspective, as though he were reconciling what had long been in his mind’s eye with what he encountered now in three dimensions.

Then came the quick, chest-thumping blast of a train horn. 

“There she is,” Setzer said, his first unscripted line and perhaps his most convincing.

No matter who you are, it really means something big to see a slick new train easing into an elevated station with the Minneapolis skyline as the backdrop. 

With one blast of a horn, it becomes clear that Minneapolis was one kind of city before and another kind now. That’s what a train does.

Building market share
While the Hiawatha line may impress, will it do strong enough a business to survive? The Metropolitan Council has struck a determinedly cautious stance when it comes to the future of its LRT investment, which was made under the previous administration. With budgets tight and the usual clamoring for road projects now joined by a host of other transit ventures, Hiawatha will have to prove itself before its future, and the future of other planned light rail projects in the region, is at all clarified. 

Does the region truly have an appetite for light rail? 

The journeyman transit manager says unequivocally that LRT’s success will be driven by the meaningful supply of transit, not pre-conceived measures of demand.

  Workers put the finishing touches in place a train heads out from the Lake Street station.

Workers put the finishing touches in place a train heads out from the Lake Street station.

“We will fill all the seats we can provide,” he said. 

Setzer said the main factors in transit market share are commute time, scarcity of parking and all-weather dependability. As the metro area population continues to grow (the Metropolitan Council is planning for a doubling of the greater Twin Cities’s population by 2030), and as downtown redevelopment continues to replace surface lots with buildings, LRT should be able to capitalize on regional trends.

Among workaday commuters, especially in south Minneapolis and the southern suburbs, upcoming construction on I-35W and Lake Street will help build LRT Ridership.

Convenient airport service will be another big LRT draw, especially for convention traffic. Shannon McCarthy of the Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association said her organization has been priming the LRT pump for months. 

McCarthy said most Minneapolis tourists are from smaller towns and are often intimidated by the prospect of driving in the city core. Tourists account for 40 percent of Mall of America sales, and many of shoppers arrive by air from destinations around the country and the world. Having a rail link to the airport will increase the mega-mall’s appeal to upscale shoppers. Likewise, she said, marketing to conventioneers focuses both on the convenience of an added transit mode and the prestige conferred on cities that have rail transit. 

Setzer said Metro Transit is developing LRT promotional packages with the area’s major venues. These will roll out in the coming months.

LRT vs. other types of transit
Do local busway backers or even PRT advocates have anything to fear from light rail?

Setzer calls competition between transit modes a political condition rather than a reflection of system planning. He says multiple modes of transit geared toward specific needs provides the best service, as can be seen in other cities such as Portland, St. Louis, and Chicago.

“Single occupancy cars are the opposition, period,” he said.

And while Setzer said he expects light rail to prove itself and change the nature of local transportation planning, he predicted that the bus will remain transit’s workhorse for the next 50 years.

“Today the Metro Transit system is 900 buses and 24 rail cars. The proportions are not going to change radically any time soon.”

Mike Setzer: A Look Back, a Look Ahead

A Look Back, a Look Ahead

  Mike Setzer, Metro Transit's outgoing general manager, sees "great potential" in public-private partnerships for community building around transit.   “I only wish I could package the broad understanding of transit's role in the regional economy that I find in the Twin Cities, especially among private sector thought leaders . . . ”

Mike Setzer, Metro Transit's outgoing general manager, sees "great potential" in public-private partnerships for community building around transit.

“I only wish I could package the broad understanding of transit's role
in the regional economy that I find in the Twin Cities, especially among private sector thought leaders . . . ”

Mike Setzer leaves Metro Transit with 2,600 employees, 132 bus routes delivering 67 million trips per year and, soon, one commuter rail line. He will, for the second time in 11 years, take over the SORTA Metro system, which in all respects is about a third as large. Here he reflects on his experience in Minneapolis and the task ahead. 


“There are monumental differences between the Cincinnati situation and the Twin Cities'. SORTA is essentially a city transit system whose funding structure requires that suburban service pay for itself. Cincinnati Metro thus is virtually unconnected to State government. No state appropriations, but then no state legislature to deal with either.

“My take from Metro Transit is that a success in transit needs to have two things, a dependable source of operating funds and a superb daily operation. Metro Transit puts the most courteous, professional group of operators on the street each day behind the wheel of one of the best fleets anywhere. It was that way when I got here—I take no credit for that. But nonetheless, ridership has fallen, service has been cut and fares have been increased. Now, about those appropriations . . . .

"Moving on, I am convinced that public-private partnerships have great potential. In Cincinnati, we are just beginning to look at some opportunities to partner. When a significant element of the transportation market understands its stake in the transit system's design and performance and wants to get actively involved, you can get some dynamic interplay that rises above routine. 

“For instance, in Cincinnati there is a sprawling suburb that now wants to grow into a real ‘place’ by developing a unifying identity, some community building amenities, and some logic in how people move into and within the township. Their first big investment? A transit center and park-ride facility. But it is also integrated into new retail investment as well as other public infrastructure investment.

“I only wish I could package the broad understanding of transit's role
in the regional economy that I find in the Twin Cities, especially among private sector thought leaders, and splice it into the public policy debate in Ohio. Maybe soon.”

Special Series "Happy Rails": LRT Debuts

On June 26, Hiawatha light rail will debut in the Twin Cities, and the man in charge of putting the line in place will take his curtain call. 

  Mike Setzer at the Lake Street LRT station, May 2004. Setzer will leave Metro Transit soon after the debut of Hiawatha light rail.

Mike Setzer at the Lake Street LRT station, May 2004. Setzer will leave Metro Transit soon after the debut of Hiawatha light rail.

June 2004—Mike Setzer, Metro Transit’s general manager since 2002, will head to Cincinnati to run the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, a position he previously held from 1987 to 1993. Setzer’s family has lived in Cincinnati during the years he has held his post with Metro Transit in Minneapolis.

"This is a very difficult decision," Setzer said in a statement announcing the move in May. "Metro Transit is the finest agency I have served in my 30 years in this profession. Nevertheless, my 13-year-old daughter and wife, Kathy, deserve a full-time dad and husband. This new position affords that opportunity."

On schedule, on budget

P1010062.JPG

Managing the return of commuter rail to the Twin Cities after a 50-year hiatus will no doubt rank as Setzer’s signature achievement with Metro Transit. Hiawatha LRT will be delivered on budget at $715 million and, in terms of construction, on schedule. 

But Setzer’s tenure has been marked with other major events, including the 2004 bus operators’ strike. The 46-day walkout was the longest in a major city in 20 years, said Setzer. Metro Transit reports that it recovered 90 percent of lost ridership in the six weeks following the strike, though Setzer noted that a year might be needed to close the gap fully. 

In 2003, Setzer managed to close an $11.4 million state funding gap for the agency. He had to raise fares and implement a five-percent service cut, but the overall impacts were broadly thought to be minimal considering the size of the budget shortfall.

New services and innovation
Setzer’s administration created new and improved bus service for south Minneapolis, Bloomington, Edina and Richfield through a comprehensive community outreach process. 

And Setzer is being praised as a technological innovator, boosting the performance of Metro Transit’s 900-bus system by introducing rechargeable “smart cards” for fares, installing satellite tracking systems on buses, and experimenting with hybrid electric buses.

The Phillips Partnership would like to thank Mike Setzer for his work on sustainable development in the Twin Cities and in south Minneapolis in particular.