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Midtown Greenway and 5th Avenue Intersection

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?

5 comments to Midtown Greenway and 5th Avenue Intersection

  • Jess

    5th Ave. feeds onto 35W and 94 – I would be highly surprised if the city could be convinced to block it off above and below the Greenway crossing.

  • Melanie

    Since 29th terminates at Portland anyway, I think it is possible to terminate it sooner with little drawback.
    I wonder if some other traffic slowing device between lake and 28th- like a woonerf- would help in this case? Something like that might discourage cars from using this section of road if not necessary for their trip, and will at least cause them to navigate through with caution.

  • Google Maps suggests another option: they label 29th St as an eastbound one-way. I’d suggest a modification to the Google Plan: changing the segment from 4th to 5th to a one-way westbound, so that both segments of 29th St only allow travel away from 5th Ave.

    What will probably make the most difference, though, is what Ace Ice wants to happen with 29th St. At this point the road exists almost solely to serve them, and Public Works usually sides with a major employer.

    I personally think your raised intersection idea is the best solution – but I don’t think Public Works is fond of those, which they think are difficult to plow.

  • Craig A

    Can someone give a report on the Midtown Greenway? I will have my youngest and my wife ( not ridden in twenty years) with us if weather permits this week. Need to know what percentage of the trail is dry or you can advise a part to avoid.

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