Street reconstruction could mean more bike lanes for Hopkins

The proposed design option for Texas Avenue South is to put a “sharrow,” which is marking on pavement to delineate a shared use lane between vehicle and bicycle traffic, on the west side of the street that is within Hopkins city limits. The east side of the street is within the city limits of St. Louis Park, whose council had approved a 5-foot concrete bikeway there months ago.

The Hopkins City Council on Nov. 6 ordered a public hearing for its 2018 Street and Utility Improvement Project that concerns reconstruction of roads in the northeastern corner of the city.

Roads that would be affected are Lake Street Northeast, Texas Avenue South, Division Street, Cambridge Street, Oxford Street and Murphy Avenue. All the streets have the poorest rating for pavement and utility condition, according to a city map.

In addition to repaving, the project would also redo the outdated sanitary sewer and water systems, both of which are about 70 years old, as well as improve drainage by replacing the storm sewer and installing curbs and gutters where there are currently no curbs and gutters.

“It’s past its lifespan, past any rehabilitation and must be reconstructed at this point,” said Nick Amatuccio from Bolton & Menk, the project engineer.

Part of the proposed reconstruction includes the addition of bike lanes, which City Engineer Nate Stanley said is an opportunity to improve connectivity throughout the city.

“Another big goal was to create a connection from one end of town to another, ending at Cedar Lake Regional Trail,” he said, noting that multi-use paths would encourage pedestrian activity along the corridor to nearby destinations such as Cottageville and Oakes parks.

For example, the proposed design for Lake Street Northeast would add “sharrows,” which are markings on pavement that delineate a shared use lane between vehicles and bike traffic, on both sides of the street.

“This’ll create a safe pathway for bicyclists from Blake Road to Texas Avenue,” said Stanley.

On Texas Avenue South, the current proposed design would add a “sharrow” on the west side of the street. The east side of the street, which is within St. Louis Park city limits, features a 5-foot concrete bike lane. The St. Louis Park City Council had already approved a bikeway on its side months ago, but put the project on hold in efforts to synchronize with Hopkins’ road project, which originally proposed a concrete bike lane on the Hopkins side of the road.

However, that proposal met resistance from area residents, who presented a petition to the city at the last neighborhood meeting, because it would eliminate on-street parking. City staff members “heard it loud and clear,” according to Stanley, and as a result, Texas Avenue was redesigned accordingly.

Although other options aren’t completely off the table and “nothing is set in stone,” Stanley said that this was the current preferred option.

“Would sharrows work? Yes, they would. Looking at the long term for 20 years down the road, that’s what we’re designing for today,” said Stanley. “We’re looking to make a long-term investment at a prudent time.”

Since reconstruction on the east side of Texas Avenue and the north side of Division Street are technically within St. Louis Park city limits, Hopkins will be the project manager and St. Louis Park will be billed as it’s built, according to Stanley.

Stanley reassured the council that they’re not embarking on this project because St. Louis Park is, but instead to increase connectivity throughout the city.

“We thought it would make sense to look at improving the connectivity on our network at a slightly higher level,” said Stanley. “This was not just some, ‘Hey, St. Louis Park’s doing it. Let’s do it too.’”

If the city chooses not to install the bike lanes at all, the Hopkins side of Texas Avenue may become the only parking allowed on the street.

“We’ll likely see at times spillover from St. Louis Park,” said Stanley of that scenario.

But what residents have been most concerned about, according to Stanley, is feeling comfortable while using bike lanes.

“The one comment I hear over and over and over from people at public hearings and through community outreach regarding bicycle and pedestrian networks is that ‘It’s got to feel comfortable for me to use,’” he said.

Additional proposed changes are to widen Oxford and Cambridge streets by about three feet. This would make room for parking on one side of Oxford, where there is currently no parking allowed on either side of the street.

The project is projected to cost Hopkins about $4.5 million, but Stanley believes those estimates will decrease as planning progresses. The city is working with the Metropolitan Council to provide partial funding.

A neighborhood meeting is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the council chambers at City Hall, 1010 First St. S. The public hearing and ordering of final plans is expected at the Dec. 5 city council meeting, which begins at 7:05 p.m.

Final plans will be approved and bids will be ordered by March 6, and by a contract will be awarded by May 15. Construction would start in late May or early June, with a completion date slated for November.

Mayor Molly Cummings encouraged residents to stay engaged and to attend upcoming neighborhood meetings.

“The farther we go into the project, the harder it is to make changes,” Cummings explained. “So when we reach out, it’s because we want input from residents to make this the best project that it can be … The final plan has not been set … so as much consideration can be given to the people affected by this project.”

In other business:

• The council approved a grant application to the Metropolitan Council for cleanup of 325 Blake Rd., the Cold Storage site that the city is eager to demolish in time for the Blake Road reconstruction project in the spring. The funds would go toward removing asbestos, remediating soil and demolition. The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District plans to use about a third of the area to restore a polluted section of the creek that runs through the 17-acre site. Cummings has she would like to see some sort of affordable housing built on the rest of the land. The primary tenant, Deli Express, will vacate the building by the end of the year.

• Staff members completed a feasibility study for bringing Artspace, affordable live/work housing for artists, to Hopkins, and are now seeking funds to move forward with a market study. The council approved a grant application to the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Act, which funds transit-oriented, moderate to high development projects that are located within a half-mile of major transit stops. Station stops along the proposed Southwest Light Rail line are considered eligible.

Contact Sabina Badola at sabina.badola@ecm-inc.com.

I am a reporter for the Sun Sailor, covering Minnetonka, Excelsior, Shorewood, Tonka Bay, Deephaven, Greenwood, Woodland and the Hopkins School District.

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