MINNEAPOLIS — One week ago, a librarian at St. Kate's was hit and killed by a driver near Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.
Ask anyone around there and they'll tell you how dangerous the intersection is where David Norris, 39, was walking.
People have been pushing for safety changes there for decades and that includes Minneapolis Park & Recreation Commissioner Steffanie Musich.
"It can be done and it has been done with great success," said Musich.
The intersection is tricky, though, both because three jurisdictions control different parts of it, and because it changes from a freeway to a local street at Nokomis Hiawatha Regional Park — a popular spot for cyclists and pedestrians.
"You don't have to be outside very long at this intersection to hear people honking, to hear people shouting, to see someone give someone the bird," said Musich, who moved to the area 14 years ago and has seen her fair share of collisions.
She witnessed a roll-over crash in 2018 and a bicyclist who was pinned under a vehicle three years later.
"Right away we were talking about how do we get things done that are going to make this safer and there wasn't a whole lot of traction for that," said Musich. "I'm very frustrated."
Musich didn't hold back at Wednesday's commissioner's meeting, addressing the latest incident at the trouble spot, that for the first time, turned deadly.
Minneapolis Police say a driver hit and killed Norris while he was out on a walk. And a week later, officers haven't made any arrests. Tips may be submitted electronically at www.CrimeStoppersMN.org. They're anonymous and if you have information that leads to an arrest and conviction, you may be eligible for a reward.
"The real problem is speed and addressing the problem of speed is what's going to prevent another death in this location," said Musich.
She says that eight years ago, the park board agreed to change how part of the park is used to study a transportation redesign that would be conducted with the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County.
They also have jurisdiction over the intersection and would take the lead on such a project.
"And really all we've gotten is more studies and more incremental change that hasn't resulted in any significant safety improvements," said Musich.
There are recent ADA compliant upgrades — lane striping, concrete posts, signage and some turn restrictions — though, Musich says it will take more narrow lanes and traffic circles to really reduce driver's speeds to the posted 35 mph.
"We have an obligation to not only recognize that this is a dangerous intersection but to take those steps we need to take to ensure it won't be forever," said Musich.
KARE 11 reached out to city and county officials to ask about the changes at the intersection and if more are in store. Here are the answers we received in full:
"Our thoughts go out to the victim’s family and friends. The loss of a life is never acceptable and we are working diligently toward ending death and life-altering injuries on our streets through our Vision Zero work. The City continues to work and collaborate with Hennepin County, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Improvements were made to the signing and pavement markings, and a median was built this past construction season to improve safety in the corridor. We will be working closely with project partners on additional safety improvements for 2023," City of Minneapolis spokesperson.
A Hennepin County spokesperson wrote, "Hennepin County recognizes this tragic situation and express our sympathies to the family and friends of the victim. Together, the county has been collaborating over time with the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minnesota Department of Transportation on making safety improvements in this corridor to slow traffic and improve safety for people who are walking, biking and rolling. As a result of engagement with adjacent neighborhoods and technical analysis; safety improvements have been made to this segment of roadway. To date, the improvements include updated high visibility pavement markings, trail crossing signage, increased visibility and size of signage and added medians. Once more details become available, staff will use that information, along with input from the community and other experiences, to educate and inform our discussions and next steps. We anticipate more conversations in 2023."
Council Member Emily Koski, who oversees Ward 11 where the intersection is located, wrote in a statement, "I have a demonstrated commitment to engaging in discussions with necessary jurisdictional partners regarding enhancements to the transportation and traffic infrastructure within Ward 11.
For example, I hosted a Community Meeting on the Intersection of Cedar Ave South (Hennepin County road) and Edgewater Blvd (City of Minneapolis street) in October 2022, and invited Hennepin County and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, so we could discuss the work that has been done at the intersection, and receive community input about the future of the intersection.
In 2022, the intersection of Cedar Ave South and Edgewater Blvd received replacement pedestrian ramps, an extended median on Cedar Ave South which defined one southbound lane and included traffic calming measures for vehicle speeds, and a no left turn sign from Edgewater Blvd onto Cedar Ave South.
At the Community Meeting, we shared the proposed intersection changes to Cedar Ave South and Edgewater Blvd for 2023, which include modifying the intersection of Cedar Ave South and Edgewater Blvd to right-in/right-out, providing northbound left-turn phase at Cedar Ave South and Lake Nokomis Parkway, and providing eastbound right-turn phase at Cedar Ave South and Lake Nokomis Parkway.
I plan to continue to work with the government entities who have jurisdiction over Cedar Ave South (Hennepin County) and East Lake Nokomis Parkway (Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board) to encourage improvements to that intersection. And, I will engage the community as this work moves forward.”
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