Bike lane improvements could increase traffic in Marcy-Holmes

Officials with the project say the benefits outweigh the costs of diverting traffic off of Hennepin Avenue.

The intersection of East Hennepin Avenue and 8th Street as on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.

Sydni Rose

The intersection of East Hennepin Avenue and 8th Street as on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.

Caitlin Anderson

Bike and pedestrian improvements bordering Marcy-Holmes could affect businesses and traffic through the neighborhood. 

The President’s Bike Boulevard project, a joint partnership between the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County, attempts to fill a gap on East Hennepin Avenue and 5th Street Southeast in an existing bike network. These improvements could increase the traffic moving through the neighborhood and impact the businesses near the intersection, community members say. 

“The project is to organize a space at this intersection that is catered to pedestrians, cyclists, cars and trucks,” said Trey Joiner, associate transportation planner for the city, during a presentation given to Marcy-Holmes and neighboring Beltrami residents on Sept. 30. “What we’re proposing here is not something that’s willy-nilly … it’s something that’s tested.”

The project’s goal is to help create a safer intersection by reducing the number of traffic lanes on East Hennepin Avenue from four to three to make room for protected bike lanes. These changes will disallow left turns from East Hennepin Avenue onto 5th Street Southeast between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.  

Reduced lanes could also help reduce car speeds, said Jordan Kocak, pedestrian and bicycle coordinator for Hennepin County.

A major concern for residents at the meeting was how restricting this intersection, a main truck route for area businesses, could affect traffic elsewhere in the neighborhood — specifically by diverting cars and trucks onto 8th Street Southeast, which cuts through the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. 

David O’Neill, co-founder of the Minneapolis Cider Co., shares these concerns. He said this project could impact the cidery’s ability to carry out business as usual. 

“As we grow, I would be more concerned about the truck traffic … I just want to make sure they are thinking long-term,” O’Neill said.

But Joiner said the benefits of improved bike infrastructure outweigh the increased truck traffic through the neighborhood. 

Instead of a left turn restriction, residents and business owners like O’Neill said a traffic light would improve safety without affecting traffic on 8th Street Southeast. 

“These things come into play when you start tinkering and inevitably every time you fix a problem, you potentially create another one,” said Chris Lautenschlager, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. “You’re driving semi-trucks into the neighborhood now, which is … not great.”

Officials said traffic in the area does not warrant a traffic light and is not within the project’s budget.

A recent study from the city and county observed the traffic of a normal day at the intersections. It saw four trucks turn left at the intersection between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. This is compared with 30 bikes, 11 pedestrians and 64 cars during that same time frame.

But officials need to take into account the increased traffic future developments underway in the area will bring, said Jen Holmberg, a Beltrami resident who uses the intersection frequently.

The city and county plan to bring the project to the Minneapolis City Council in November. If approved, the project would be completed by fall 2020. 

“We have spoken with many people who are very excited about an improvement for people who are walking and biking here,” Kocak said. “We have done other outreach around this project and we have received positive feedback from residents.”