Minnetonka Boulevard is an old road with an interesting history that dates back at least 150 years. It was once home to a streetcar line that ran from Minneapolis to the Walker-Lake area, St. Louis Park’s original downtown. And in an example of history repeating itself, in 1896, the St. Louis Park Village Council authorized construction of a bike path along Minnetonka Boulevard, in response to the national bike craze.
The road hasn’t always been beloved by residents. A 1906 newspaper account read:
It is one of the most traveled roads in the state, yet on account of the lack of “pull” on the part of the taxpayers of St. Louis Park, the road remains untouched, and those who use it have spilled enough profanity by the wayside to pave it if strong language, in bales, could be used for blocks.
Today, Minnetonka Boulevard, aka County Road 5, is traveled by more than 15,000 vehicles a day and crossed by hundreds of pedestrians and bikers, including kids on their way to school. People I’ve talked with while campaigning say it’s a scary street to cross. They wonder what we can do to make it safer.
In conversations with our city engineer, county commissioner, and others, I’ve worked to gain an understanding of how to make Minnetonka Boulevard safer. The main theme I've heard is that it’s complicated, since Minnetonka Boulevard is a county road. But lots of things are complicated, and by focusing on them, we can resolve them. I’d like to see our city council work with county officials, residents, and others to make crossing our main artery in Ward 1 easier and safer.
The biggest complication, it's said, is that county approval is needed for anything we do that impacts how traffic moves on Minnetonka Boulevard. I notice city staff recently placed yellow crosswalk markers in the center of the road at some locations, which is a small gesture that acknowledges the problem, a tiny step in the right direction. I’d like us to start exploring what next steps might be that actually increase safety, like installing crosswalk systems and perhaps a pedestrian bridge.
There’s some uncomplicated good news on the horizon too. The stretch of Minnetonka Boulevard east of Highway 100 is on the county’s short list for capital improvements in the next few years, meaning improvements are likely to be proposed – and funded – by the county. This may include grassy center medians to provide a landing spot for pedestrians, curb extensions, narrowing the road to two lanes in some spots, and other improvements. I'm pleased about these plans look forward to working with the county, other council members, and Ward 1 residents on specifics.
Minnetonka Boulevard west of Highway 100 is a different story – no plans are currently in place at the county level to improve the road. I’m disappointed in that, and know others are too. But I’m ready to get to work identifying ways our city can move forward on improving safety nevertheless.
As we experience more traffic from planned high-density housing and other new developments, Minnetonka Boulevard is sure to become even busier and more difficult to cross. If elected to the Ward 1 seat on November 7, I’m committed to working with council, city and county staff, and residents to push for solutions to this real and growing problem.
Do you have concerns about crossing Minnetonka Boulevard? Please share them here.
Also, If you liked the bit about profanity being used to pave Minnetonka Boulevard, I recommend visiting the SLP Historical Society’s website. You can donate to the historical society to support their great work. You can also donate to my campaign!