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Hennepin Avenue redesign plan goes to final vote Thursday

The new plan for Hennepin Avenue calls for wider sidewalks, separated bike lanes and a part-time bus lane.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Hennepin Avenue redesign plan through parts of south Minneapolis will come before the city council for a final vote Thursday, after months of debate about how to balance the needs of business owners, residents, transit riders and bicyclists.

After Mayor Jacob Frey initially vetoed a council proposal earlier this summer, he negotiated with city council members to create a new plan that will widen sidewalks, create separated bikeways and reduce car traffic to one lane in each direction. 

However, if approved, the redesign would allow for part-time bus lanes operating for a minimum of six hours a day, rather than 24/7 bus lanes, something the community had pushed for months. 

"We don't see this as a compromise," said Katie Jones with the group Hennepin For People. "Only six hours of dedicated bus lanes — we think that is actually compromising our future and compromising the city's goals."

Jones called the council's negotiated plan a "missed opportunity," particularly with the state, federal government and Metropolitan Council investing $60 million in a faster transit plan for routes that include Hennepin. 

"That doesn't come around every day," Jones said. "We need to be maximizing every dollar there."

On the other hand, Mayor Frey said in a statement ahead of Thursday's vote that he's "excited for this Hennepin Avenue layout moving forward and to finally put this project on the right track."

"The willingness of the Council, my office, and City staff to work together in good faith to get not just to this layout, but to a data-driven analysis, is a big win — a collective win for our city," Frey said.

Many business owners along Hennepin Avenue have been pleased to see the city deny the proposal for 24/7 bus lanes, given that they'd fought the changes for months. Mumtaz Osman, whose family has owned Osman Cleaners on Hennepin for more than 30 years, said the preservation of parking spaces for customers during non-rush hour will be vital to her business.

However, she said the overall plan will still negatively impact Osman Cleaners. 

"It's going to damage us. Almost all of these small businesses, are owned by minorities," Osman said, pointing out that her family owns its commercial building rather than renting. "We don't have the option to say, 'OK, let's go, let our lease expire and we'll go somewhere else.' It's not like that." 

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