Metro Transit C Line, 51st Ave. and Lilac Dr. may see improvements

At the February Shingle Creek Neighborhood Association Neighborhood (SCNA) meeting, Metro Transit Community-Outreach & Engagement representative C Terrence Anderson shared preliminary design and updates on the C Line on Penn Avenue (Route 19). Overall there will be 23 enhanced stations along Penn Ave. from 7th and Park to the Brooklyn Center Transit Station; with limited stops, larger buses, faster, frequent service, pay before boarding and enter through any door. Some local bus service will remain. The 23 station locations were approved in the spring of 2016 after planning and community input. There will also be significant coordinated street improvements on Penn Ave. and 8th Street in addition to the long-term realignment to Glenwood Ave.

This $35 million transportation investment project will bring a new kind of bus service for the Twin Cities’ busiest urban streets. Rapid bus service is a package of transit enhancements like faster service, train-like features, enhanced stations, enhanced security, and larger and specialized vehicles, that adds up to a faster trip and an improved experience. It currently is being funded by a mix of federal, state and local funds and is seeking the final $15 million for the project before construction slated for 2018 begins.

The Penn Ave. (Route 19) corridor is a critical component of the existing transit network and Metro Transit states it needs additional transit capacity. Currently carrying an average ridership of approximately 7,600 rides per weekday, it consistently ranks within Metro Transit’s top 10 highest ridership routes. It also places within the top 10 routes for highest number of passengers per in-service hour, a measure of productivity that indicates a high level of usage for the existing transit service on the Penn Ave. corridor.

Stations are being planned roughly every quarter to half mile to connect with intersecting bus routes and serve existing high-ridership stops and major destinations. There will be small, medium and large shelters along the C Line route.

While exact service plans are still being formed through project development, it is anticipated that the almost 70 percent of existing Route 19 customers board at planned station locations already, and that the C Line service would operate every 10 minutes during rush hours, midday, evenings and weekends, with less frequent service in the early morning and late at night.

Some new discussions are also coming forward, reported Anderson, based on feedback received at the October SCNA meeting regarding an old and ongoing issue at the 51st Ave N/Lilac Drive and Brooklyn Boulevard intersection, on the placement of its bus station and the general safety of pedestrians. This location was the first ‘intersection’ in the City of Minneapolis in the northwest corner of the city. It abuts the City of Brooklyn Center, which is currently working to complete its own Brooklyn Boulevard Redesign efforts. And Hennepin County and MN DOT are also coordinating efforts around improving Brooklyn Boulevard and the exit and entrance ramps onto Highway 100.

As all of this improvement effort goes on, residents have safety concerns about the 51st and Brooklyn Boulevard intersection. There’s the current high volume of (often speeding) traffic and the lack of safe motorized turning and pedestrian crossings over four lanes of traffic to get to and from the current bus stop without a stoplight. Since the initial corridor traffic study was done there’s increased traffic due to the new Brooklyn Center school using the Lilac Dr/51st Ave. intersection, along with the Kipp Elementary School.

Initially, there was an option identified to place a stoplight at the off ramp of Highway 100 in the Brooklyn Center planning efforts to help with challenges regarding the high volume of traffic entering from Highway 100 to Brooklyn Boulevard, both north and south bound. However, it would not address the lack of a safe crossing at 51st and N/Lilac Drive for residents trying to exit or reach the bus. These concerns mirror those in the study done entitled “Brooklyn Boulevard Corridor Study” prepared for the City of Brooklyn Center and completed in May 2013 by SRF. The report identifies many of the same concerns. “…From past studies, safety concerns have been identified on other roadway segments and intersections in the corridor. This includes the Brooklyn Boulevard (CSAH 152) at 51st Avenue/Lilac Drive intersection.” The issues identified regarding the 51st Ave. intersection are: “Safety issues in the previous traffic study, dated February 10, 2010; the location of existing bus stops promotes pedestrian crossing at non-intersection locations; the southbound direction lacks a southbound left-turn lane. This movement serves a large area with a moderate left-turning volume; access issues from side streets EB (eastbound) to NB (northbound) left turn.”

Anderson said that after reporting concerns to the project partners some new discussions have come forward that may seek new safer solutions regarding this intersection along the C Line. The discussions are preliminary at the time of this article. The general location of Brooklyn Boulevard and 51st Ave. Station has been identified and a final placement will be determined through the Brooklyn Boulevard reconstruction project.

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