I wrote several months ago that the City of Minneapolis was considering giving trail traffic priority over some of the intersecting roadways along the Midtown Greenway. The City of Minneapolis has done this, and this post will consider one of these locations in greater detail – the intersection of the Midtown Greenway with 5th Avenue S.
The blog Cycle Twin Cities has posted some photos of the intersection and has raised some concerns about the visibility of the new stop signs along 5th Avenue S. In particular, the blog noted that vehicles traveling west or east on 29th Street (which runs parallel to the Midtown Greenway) and turning onto northbound 5th Avenue S are barely going to finish executing their turn before being confronted with another stop sign in front of the Midtown Greenway.
In engineering terms, this is a problem of “intersection spacing.” The distance between 29th Street and the Midtown Greenway is just shy of 100 feet (centerline to centerline, roadway edge to roadway edge this distance is closer to 75 feet). When intersection spacing is an issue, engineers have a few standard options to correct the situation:
- Grade Separation – Can a bridge be constructed that would remove one of the two intersections? This is a costly, and unlikely option.
- Close One of the Intersections – Can 5th Avenue be terminated on both sides of the Midtown Greenway? Without knowing information about how many vehicles per day use 5th Avenue, it’s hard to know how realistic this option is. Can 29th Street be terminated on both sides of 5th Avenue?
- Combine the Intersections – Can either 29th Street or the Midtown Greenway (or both) be realigned to intersect 5th Avenue at the same location? This will not be a popular option among cyclists, and would result in cyclists being treated as pedestrians at the new intersection. This does not accomplish the goal of giving trail traffic priority.
- Turning Restrictions – Can turning movements for vehicles on 29th Street be prohibited? This would remove the problem of turning vehicles being surprised by stop signs. I suspect that compliance with signs prohibiting turning would be very low.
I suspect that none of these traditional methods of dealing with poor intersection spacing are realistic options in the near future. Instead, I the City could enhance the trail crossing to make drivers more aware that they should yield to trail traffic. Here are a couple realistic ideas that could improve this trail crossing:
- Curb Bumpouts – 5th Avenue S is currently wide enough to permit parking along both sides of the street. Curb bumpouts could be constructed to shorten the crossing distance for trail users and to enforce the City’s parking restrictions within 30′ of intersections. The curb bumpouts would also permit the stop signs on 5th Avenue to be placed closer to the driving lane.
- Raised Intersection – The trail crossing could be emphasized by constructing the trail on top of a speed table. The trail could use a consistent paving element for trail users, but would require drivers to transition across several elements. The speed table would provide additional visibility for trail users and would emphasize that trail users have priority over roadway users. It would also help moderate vehicle speeds on 5th Avenue.
Readers, have you traveled through this intersection since the new stop signs were placed? What was your experience? What could be done to improve compliance with the stop signs?