Construction for Samatar Crossing is Delayed

An effort to turn an old 94 exit ramp into a pedestrian friendly crossing has been postponed amid concerns from surrounding businesses and residents alike.

The crossing will be called “Samatar Crossing”, named after the late Hussein Samatar, the former Hennepin county school board member who passed away unexpectedly in 2014 at the age of 45. It was championed by former city Mayor R.T. Rybak who started working on it before he left office in 2014. Rybak said, “the original idea was to have a pedestrian-only area so residents of the West Bank could feel more a part of downtown, I know there were some adjacent property owners who wanted car traffic but I never thought that was as important as having a rare oasis in a car-dominated city where people wouldn’t have to watch out for cars.”

The plan was to create a pedestrian bridge that connects Cedar Riverside to downtown Minneapolis. Soon after, a hybrid design that includes both cars and pedestrians was presented to the city council which infuriated a lot of residents who already think the neighborhood has too many cars.

In a city council meeting earlier this year, the west bank community coalition demanded the project be limited to pedestrians and cyclists only. The road used to serve as 5th St exit off 94 west until the 7th St exit was built for US bank stadium in 2016. That particular road is currently closed and abandoned.

Council member Abdi Warsame, who represents the district wants to develop two different designs, with and without cars, and represent it to the community to decide.

The city of Minneapolis transportation planning office would prefer to combine pedestrians, cars and bicycles without compromising the safety of the non-motorized traffic.

City planner, Steven Hay believes that the crossway will help with the flow of traffic by creating a third point of entry to the neighborhood which should reduce congestion at the two other entry points. A study done by Hay’s office concluded that the crossway could serve  up to 3000 cars a day which would slightly increase the neighborhood’s motorized traffic which is already a concern for the local residents.

Ahmed Ali, 34, a resident of Cedar Riverside said, “First they said, no cars, now when the businesses complain, they want to add cars and that is not safe for the kids and makes the neighborhood noisy”. Most residents are concerned that an already car heavy neighborhood will attract more cars making it less safe for kids and cyclists.

Council member Warsame is also concerned about the increase of cars as well as the maintenance of Curry Park which is the only public park in the neighborhood. Abdi Warsame said “People are already wary that there’s too many cars, and some of these cars speed, especially on 6th Street. There’s a lot of concern from the community.”

The city is now working on another proposal that does not include cars. The project is estimated to cost $2 million and is construction is projected to start sometime in 2017.

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