Let’s say for a moment you’re a passenger on MetroTransit’s 10N northbound. You meant to get off at 52nd & Central because you work at one of the retailers near 53rd and Central, but you missed your stop. The next stop is just north of 694, at Central & Hackmann, by the Holiday Station. The fastest way to get back would be to walk south on Central.
However MnDOT (as much as they love the automobile) have forbidden pedestrians on Central Ave. between 53rd and Medtronic Pkwy. (where the 694 interchange resides). There are posted “no pedestrian” signs as well as no sidewalks anywhere in the area. So legally the shortest route for pedestrians is to cross 694 using the Matterhorn bridge, adding a full mile to the trip:
Or you can take the equally long route under 694 via 7th St.
Of course people are just going to walk down Central Ave. You can see the “desire paths” worn into the grass. I often see pedestrians heading south on this path to go to work, or carrying grocery bags while going north, to head home.
MnDOT’s solution, still part of the problem
To alleviate the problem, MnDOT has requested that some pedestrian facilities be added to this intersection during the next maintenance period. Engineers, as by-the-books as they are, came up with this:
Pedestrians walking in the median? It’s almost as bad as a purposefully designed diverging diamond interchange’s terrible pedestrian facilities.
Getting through this intersection is not meant to be a walk in the park. People who use this intersection wish to cross it as quickly as possible. The MnDOT design does make pedestrians cross at already signaled intersections, but it’s too complicated. Pedestrians are expected to wait for four (4) walk signals, and during the process they’ll wind up on the other side of Central Ave. I think at best, 50% of the people that cross this intersection are going to use the MnDOT facilities. The other 50% are going to continue on the east side as they always have.
An actual permanent fix for this wouldn’t come cheap. A while back I brought up the issue on Strong Towns. The best option (in my opinion) was the one suggested by Jeffrey Jakucyk:
It simply changes the on ramps on northbound Central Ave./MN-65 into 90-degree right turns. It will make drivers slow down to turn and also puts pedestrians in their immediate view. Besides, uninterrupted on-ramps (despite what engineers think) are not a God given right.