Residents oppose Samatar Crossing

Pushback from the community focuses on public health effects of the crossing.

by Raj Chaduvula

A new project that would pull heavy vehicle traffic through the streets of Minneapolis’ West Bank has encountered opposition from area residents.

The Fifth Street Reconnection project, or the Samatar Crossing, is designed to reconnect Fifth Street Southeast between 11th Avenue South, near U.S. Bank Stadium, and 15th Avenue South as a multi-vehicle roadway, a pedestrian walkway and bike lane. Members of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood created a petition to protest the addition of vehicle traffic on the street.

“We want the connection … but we have real concerns about the [addition] of a vehicle roadway,” said Mohamed Mohamed, the West Bank Community Coalition’s executive director.

Ward 6 Council Member Abdi Warsame said the link to downtown is necessary but needs to be beneficial to the community, especially children and families.

The Minneapolis Public Works Department’s transportation planner Steven Hay said the department wants to create a connection with vehicles, bikes and pedestrian access. The city, Hay said, aims to make better connections to Cedar-Riverside.

The petition cites safety and health as the main arguments against another roadway.

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is surrounded by roads, with Interstate 94 and Interstate 35W running around it as well as the multiple ramps and streets through the neighborhood itself, Mohamed said. Building a roadway to the Samatar Crossing could add between 1,000 to 3,000 cars a day, he said.

Warsame said the addition of the roadway is also dangerous to children and families that live in the area, especially those going to the popular Currie Park, the neighborhood’s only green space.

Mohamed said residents who live near the Brian Coyle Center on 15th Avenue South raised concerns about the traffic the roadway might bring.

Osman Ali, a resident of the West Bank living across from the center who signed the petition, said traffic is already a problem in the neighborhood.

The roadways have few stop signs and speed bumps to control traffic, said Burhan Mohumed, youth organizer for WBCC and signer of the petition.

The possible addition of another 1,000 cars will only worsen traffic woes, Ali said.

Another concern for the community was increased pollution and reduced air quality, which could affect residents’ health.

Mohamed said the area has experienced high levels of pollution due to its location, and the addition of the roadway would heighten the issue.

Hay said the roadway’s pollution would be negligible on top of the area’s traffic.

Warsame said the neighborhood has high rates of asthma, and the roadway could cause an increase in those rates.

“For us, bringing more traffic into the neighborhood is not an option,” he said.

Mohumed said the community was not fully engaged in the discussions for the construction.

Hay said construction for the crossing is expected to start sometime in 2017 instead of its originally planned 2016 start due to resistance from the community members.

“We’re trying to make the connection an asset to the neighborhood and not something they think is a detriment,” he said.

Hay said the public works department wants to find ways to address community concerns over the project. For example, officials have revisited the designs for the street to modify and address pedestrian safety issues, he said.

“We are going to address the concerns and tweak our designs a little bit and hopefully come up with something that we can get the community to endorse,” he said.