An intersection near the University of Minnesota’s West Bank known for its high number of pedestrian accidents could get an upgrade.
Minneapolis’ Ways and Means Budget Committee approved an action Tuesday that would improve safety at the intersections of Washington Avenue with Cedar and 19th avenues.
The proposal, requested by the Department of Public Works, authorizes the use of a $765,000 federal grant to improve signals, medians, crosswalk markings, curbs and lights at that spot.
“Pedestrian safety is a big priority around the University of Minnesota,” said City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents the University’s district.
“We want a walkable, bike-able community where folks feel safe.”
The action is part of a third round of funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, which aims to increase walking and bicycling rates in cities by providing funding to improve sidewalks and roads. The NTPP project has awarded Minneapolis more than $10 million in federal dollars since it began in 2005.
It has provided more than $25 million for new routes, improved sidewalks and safer crosswalks in communities in Missouri, California, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“I think the NTPP program has been one of the things that has encouraged government to get involved,” said Ward 6 City Councilman Robert Lilligren. “The fact that we have a sizeable grant that is targeted to increase walking and biking has shifted the perspective within government.”
With the funds, the city is looking to work with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to transform the Seven Corners intersection.
Tommy Thompson, manager of nearby business The Corner Bar, said he hasn’t noticed significant problems with pedestrian-automobile accidents around his restaurant.
“They’ve installed the new beeping crosswalk things, and I think that makes it a little bit easier for anybody crossing the street,” Thompson said. “But there haven’t been any huge problems.”
Gordon said in a high-density urban area like Minneapolis, there are more serious injuries and fatalities involving cars hitting pedestrians than vehicles hitting other drivers.
“Now that we’ve seen this alarming spike in pedestrian deaths within Minnesota, we’re working and discussing to approve the layout for improvements,” Lilligren said.
The University’s Center for Transportation Studies administered an evaluation of the NTPP program in 2006 and 2010 to compare communities before and after changes.
Lilligren said this kind of data helps generate discussion and create proposals, like the one for the intersection of Washington and Cedar avenues.
“The transportation world is a data-driven world, and there wasn’t a lot of data out there about pedestrians and bicyclists,” Lilligren said. “Part of the requirement of using this grant was generating data.”
Jacqueline Brudlos, a spokeswoman for the University’s Parking and Transportation Services, said pedestrian safety is a top priority, and the department works to develop strategies — like new signal indicators and temporary sidewalks during construction — to ensure safety for students.
“We do everything we can to make sure students stay safe,” Brudlos said. “We hope students keep aware of their surroundings and keep safety on the tops of their minds.”
City spokesman Casper Hill said Minneapolis is working with the state and “shooting for the 2013 construction season” to make the changes at the intersection of Washington and Cedar avenues.
The action will go in front of the full council this Friday.
“We’ve been trying to improve bike paths, better crossings and better markings around the University, and I think it will go a long way,” Gordon said.