Friday, September 27, 2013
26th Avenue Closure Showcases Poor Street Layout
Varying stretches of 26th Avenue North have been closed off due to construction as of late, and that closure has forced drivers and bikers to find alternate routes to cross this section of north Minneapolis. Unfortunately, due to some very poor urban planning, those alternatives don't exist. In between Emerson and Penn, there are no consistent thoroughfares to get people around the neighborhood. Drivers either are forced onto Broadway or Lowry, or they wind up wandering through the convoluted side streets, likely breaking a few traffic laws along the way.
I tried to traverse the area by going a block north of 26th, only to find...
...several streets blocked off with permanent or semi-permanent barriers forcing me to turn to the north or south. These supposed traffic-calming measures aren't roundabouts, as there is no way around them. I'm not going to research them to find out exactly where they are located because no one else is going to do that either. Instead, we'll just wander through the neighborhood and get increasingly frustrated as poor design choices from decades ago force us to change direction at random.
There are only two places in the city where these turns exist: This part of north Minneapolis and a section of southwest. Both are maddening to drive through, and both are specifically prohibited in updated versions of the city's comprehensive plan. Whatever convoluted logic led to these being put in place before, Minneapolis has, by now, figured out that if people want a street layout that makes no damn sense then they'll move to St. Paul.
These blocked-off intersections, as counter-productive as they are, will cost a pretty penny to undo. So we'll leave them for less lean times in our city's budget and focus on the problem to the south of 26th.
Twenty-fifth Avenue North is a series of self-contradicting one-way corridors. I have thought about this street over and over again almost to the point of inducing an aneurism, and I still cannot comprehend how anyone thought this layout was a good idea. The closest theory I can come up with is that a sadistic urban planner was writing a master's thesis on how to improve urban street design using non-Euclidean geometry, and before he could finish a cogent proposal he descended into a tragic life of meth addiction. But the city council at the time deferred to what they assumed was the expertise of their city staffer. And thus 25th Avenue North was born.
I could post an image of the street map to show these one-ways, but writing out the description does a better job of highlighting its senselessness. To the east of Irving, the street squiggles off, so we will start at Irving and go west.
From Irving to James, 25th is a one-way eastbound street, until you get to James Avenue North, which you cannot do because, again, the one-way direction is east. But at James it becomes a westbound one-way street, although only for a block or two, at which point it gets bored with traffic in just one direction and opens up to a two-way street starting at Logan. Two blocks later it returns to a westbound one-way street until it ends at Penn, where it also intersects with Willow Avenue North, which is another westbound one-way.
And if you have to ask anyone along 25th for directions, this is the most likely result:
This is not a hard problem to fix. Take down the conflicting one-way signs and make 25th into a two-way corridor or at least a one-way street that goes in a single direction. If any studies need to be done on what traffic would be like if the flow were changed, now is the ideal time to examine that. Nobody's obeying those signs while 26th is closed off anyhow.