Downtown reconstruction progresses

Bus lanes, landscaping make Nicollet Mall easier to navigate.

by Anissa Stocks

Construction on Marquette and Second avenues is nearly complete after more than a year of reconstruction that began in August 2008. Traffic lanes, more lighting and renewed bus-only lanes will open for commuters in what officials call âÄúan advent in transit for Minneapolis.âÄù Bill Fellows , project engineer for the city, said the renovations will make bus times faster and more convenient for commuters. Under the reconstruction, each street will include two lanes dedicated for buses, which will decrease travel time through downtown and will eliminate unnecessary stops. âÄúBefore the major reconstruction was completed, average speeds through the corridor were around 3 miles per hour,âÄù he said. âÄúNow, speeds will triple to nearly 12 miles per hour. That will cut off several minutes in peopleâÄôs daily commutes.âÄù He said after months of reconstruction and cooperation from businesses, commuters and pedestrians, the advantages outweigh the negatives. âÄúIt has been a disruption to local businesses [that surround the corridor], and of course pedestrians, but when itâÄôs all said and done, everyone will be pleased,âÄù Fellows said. Just two years after adopting a 10-year transportation plan for its downtown, Minneapolis has seen a reshaping that Fellows said is a âÄúnecessary advancement.âÄù Minneapolis received a $32 million federal grant for transportation reconstruction on the roads as part of a $133.3 million grant awarded to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Council . Five other cities âÄì Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle âÄì received grants last year. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL – Minneapolis, said reconstruction projects have been a long time coming. State legislators have pushed for a newly developed transit system in Minneapolis for more than 15 years. He said the new transportation plans benefit transit users, pedestrians and businesses. âÄúThis is more of an effort to respond to the concerns of commuters,âÄù he said. âÄúWhen itâÄôs all said and done, the pains of commuting through construction will be a memory.âÄù Forty percent of commuters use the current transit system, Fellows said. Project coordinators said by 2030 that number will reach nearly 60 percent. âÄúA changing Minnesota means a changing transit system,âÄù Fellows said. He said the project is on track to be wholly completed by its federally-mandated December 31 deadline. âÄúThere havenâÄôt been any big glitches yet,âÄù he said. Craig Lamothe , senior Urban Partnership Agreement project manager, said MinneapolisâÄô transportation timeline has been shortened because of the grant. âÄúWeâÄôre trying to get things done in a shorter period than expected,âÄù he said. Original transportation reconstruction plans werenâÄôt scheduled until 2013. Lamothe said the grant changed everything. âÄúWeâÄôve been able to turn things around quickly and without any major problems,âÄù he said. Improvements including more accurate bus scheduling and aesthetic landscaping will be completed by the end of the year. Fellows said nearly 200 additional trees have been planted to create an âÄúenhanced environment for pedestrians.âÄù Trees will line the street but pedestrians wonâÄôt see the structures that are underground. Technology will allow the trees to consume rainfall through the sidewalks. âÄú[All aspects] of this project are dramatic to the reshaping of Minneapolis transit,âÄù Dibble said.