(MAP) Complete Streets: What Are The Possibilities?
A look at ideas under consideration for Hopkins roads.
After debate this year about sidewalk priorities, Hopkins started putting together a comprehensive sidewalk plan that will guide future development.
The Zoning and Planning Commission kicked off the process last month by identifying corridors most in need of sidewalks and other complete-streets features. City Engineer John Bradford will discuss ideas with the Park Board in July. Hopkins will then host three public meetings in August and September before bringing a draft to back to Zoning and Planning, the Park Board and the City Council for final approval in September and October.
Hopkins will welcome public input throughout the process. But with the planning just getting started, Bradford sat down with Hopkins Patch to discuss some of the ideas under consideration.
1. Blake Road North
- Importance: Hopkins’ focus on Blake Road improvements stretches beyond sidewalks. It is a historically troubled area that has lagged behind the city’s more-marketed locations, such as the downtown. It is also a heavily trafficked area with a mix of residential and commercial properties and the first glimpse travelers from the east get of Hopkins. A planned Blake Road light rail station will make the corridor’s image and accessibility even more important.
- Current problems: The street is uninviting to passers-by. Pedestrian crossings are spaced far apart. Crossing the wide road can be intimidating to slower walkers. Multiple, unaligned driveways also make it confusing for drivers trying to turn onto Blake Road.
- Possibilities: Planners took the first steps toward making Blake Road a complete street when they built a sidewalk on the east side of the road a year or two ago. Residents had previously relied on a dirt path to walk up and down the corridor. The city will next pursue lighting upgrades and additional green features. It could also seek to transform the current shared turn lane into a median with separated turn lanes. This would reduce the width of the road’s center and allow pedestrian refuges that make it easier for slower walkers to cross. Over time, the city could also work with property owners to re-align driveways into a less-confusing pattern.
- Upgrade challenges: Blake Road is a county road, so all improvements must be done through the county—although the county board has passed its own complete streets policy. The road also faces a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Street improvements will help attract the most coveted types of development, but the community needs the resources and interest of that development to support the street improvement.
2. Blake Road South
- Importance: Blake Road’s southern portion is an important vehicle and bicycle thoroughfare, but it has much less pedestrian demand than the northern part. Already planned sidewalk improvements to Excelsior Boulevard will link to safe paths through east-side neighborhoods.
- Current problems: Very few, especially considering plans already in the offing.
- Possibilities: Possibly adding a bike lane.
- Upgrade challenges: Very few.
3. Oakridge Road
- Importance: Oakridge Road offers an obvious way to connect cyclists on the north side of town to the Fifth Avenue trail and on to the regional trails. An upgrade would also be cheap because it requires only a painted bike lane.
- Current problems: Oakridge Road is more of an opportunity to further complete a trail network than a true problem.
- Possibilities: A painted bike lane.
- Upgrade challenges: Hopkins and Minnetonka would need to work together to make the most of the bike lane.
4. Second Street North
- Importance: A path between 12th Avenue and Burnes Park would allow cyclists and runners to enter the city on the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail, get onto Second Street at Maetzold Field and then travel over to North Cedar Lake Regional Trail via Burnes Park and Minnetonka Mills Road trails.
- Current problems: Second Street is another example of an opportunity to complete the city’s trail network.
- Possibilities: Adding a trail from Maetzold Field to Burnes Park.
- Upgrade challenges: Very few.
5. Eighth Avenue
- Importance: This is perhaps the most critical part of Hopkins’ complete streets discussion because planners envision Eighth Avenue as a “pedestrian seductive” corridor enticing light-rail riders into the downtown. An extension to the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail near First Street would also linkers runners and cyclists to Cedar Lake Regional Trail in the south.
- Current problems: As it stands now, riders getting off the light rail face what Bradford calls a “sea of asphalt” that does little to clue them in on downtown amenities. Excelsior is also an imposing road to cross, particularly for slow walkers.
- Possibilities: A developer has already begun working on a project at the old Park Nicollet site that will take the avenue one step toward the city’s vision. The Johnson Building site at Excelsior and Eighth offer a similar possibility for the type of mixed-use development that attracts a variety of users. The city will also work to make Excelsior feel safer and more inviting, in part by enhancing the median.
- Upgrade challenges: Eighth Avenue is a good example of how complete streets isn’t just about sidewalks. Planners must find a balance between various competing interests—motorists, store owners, cyclists and pedestrians. For example, motorists require parking. But parking takes away space for sidewalks, bike lanes and outside eating or shopping areas.
6. Fourth Street North
- Importance: Fourth Street is a natural route for students walking to Alice Smith Elementary. The renovation of the old Mayon Building on 17th Avenue will also attracts residents wanting to shop at the planned businesses there.
- Current problems: Fourth Street has a dearth of sidewalks.
- Possibilities: The installation of a sidewalk.
- Upgrade challenges: The street has what Bradford calls “significant engineering challenges.” City rights-of-way pass close to the homes that line the road. Sidewalks are always a tough sell to affected homeowners, who often object to the perceived loss of yard space and extra walking traffic. The closer the sidewalk is to homes, the tougher that sell becomes.
7. First Street North
- Importance: When workers upgrade Shady Oak Road, First Street is scheduled to become a cul-de-sac where the two roads meet. This will make it a safer, more attractive way for walkers and cyclists to access Shady Oak’s new complete streets amenities. It will also offer better access to popular Maetzold Field.
- Current problems: Yet another example of an opportunity to complete the city’s trail network, as well as a chance to take advantage of a planned road project.
- Possibilities: Adding a sidewalk between Maetzold Field and Shady Oak.
- Upgrade challenges: Few.
8. 17th Avenue South
- Importance: This avenue will eventually offer a connection to the Shady Oak light rail station. Upgrades would also offer better routes to nearby parks.
- Current problems: It’s missing a section of sidewalk but is otherwise functional.
- Possibilities: Although it’s functional, the city could make this better fit the complete streets vision—with different parking patterns, curb extensions, additional greenery and other improvements. It could also use a bike lane.
- Upgrade challenges: Very few.
9. Shady Oak Road
- Importance: Shady Oak is a high-volume road that connects Excelsior Boulevard and Highway 7.
- Current problems: It’s not a complete street.
- Possibilities: After years of talk, plans are already underway to upgrade the often-congested Shady Oak Road. That plan includes a trail and consideration for those who aren’t motorists.
- Upgrade challenges: Planners haven’t been able to close a funding gap for the road project.