Light-rail construction will jam traffic

The University has traffic management plans to help construction run smoothly.

by Alex Holmquist

Construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line may cause some traffic jams in surrounding neighborhoods, but the University of Minnesota is working to make the construction less bothersome. The University has planned several traffic management improvement projects that will begin this summer and be completed by fall. Construction of the light-rail line will bring major changes to the University area, including the permanent closure of Washington Avenue between Walnut and Pleasant streets. That portion will be open only to buses, emergency vehicles, light-rail traffic and pedestrians. Scott Dyer, representative of the University Office of Parking and TransportationServices, said the new projects aim to minimize the impact of traffic diverted from Washington Avenue onto neighborhood roads and make navigation through the area as convenient as possible. The University plans to add more traffic signals, cameras and changeable message signs on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods. The new electronic changeable message signs will be permanent, Dyer said, and will be better designed than the temporary signs the University rents out during select seasons. Dyer said the new signs will better serve drivers because they will be more visible and give drivers more advanced warning about events on campus that could cause traffic delays. The signs will also minimize the amount of time drivers spend circulating the area looking for parking and clear event traffic more quickly, Dyer said. By default, the signs will be blank and will never host advertisements or messages unrelated to traffic operations, Dyer said. The signs will be placed in five locations near campus, including the Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park neighborhoods. Dyer recently presented the plans to the Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park neighborhood associations. Some residents raised concerns about the look, location and effectiveness of the new signs, but Jan Morlock, director of community relations at the University, said there has been a lot of time and consideration put into these projects. âÄúThis has been a many, many-year process involving the University, city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County,âÄù Morlock said. âÄúBut traffic improvements could be looked upon differently as it impacts you personally.âÄù Dick Poppele, president of the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, said he thinks the projects will benefit the neighborhoods. âÄúI canâÄôt see how it wouldnâÄôt help,âÄù he said. Poppele added that residentsâÄô major concerns about construction of the Central Corridor line involve parking in neighborhoods around the University. The businesses on Washington and University avenues will have limited or no parking, Poppele said, which means neighborhoods will harbor the excess. âÄúBusinesses are going to see big changes,âÄù Poppele said. âÄúItâÄôs going to require some serious thinking.âÄù Construction for the Central Corridor line has already begun in St. Paul, and service is scheduled to begin in 2014.