A lively crowd filled the SpringHouse Ministry Center at 610 28th Street W. on Tuesday evening for a highly anticipated open house seeking neighbors’ input on the future of Lyndale Avenue between Franklin Avenue and 31st Street S.

The event showcased three “road section concepts” for the thoroughfare after a two-to-three-year redesign project expected to begin in 2027. Hennepin County Transportation Engineer Josh Potter, who leads the project, stressed at the event that the concepts are not in final form and that neighbors’ input will be crucial in determining a final design.

“We are definitely taking feedback into account,” he said, noting that the County’s overarching goal is  making Lyndale Avenue safer for all users.

Three sample concepts, but nothing set in stone

The County’s three sample concepts shared some common features, including grassy boulevards with new tree plantings, curb bump outs at pedestrian crossings, parking on at least one side of the street, one dedicated traffic lane in each direction, and a center turn lane.

The concepts diverged on bike and transit infrastructure.

“Sample Concept B” showed a dedicated bus lane on one side of the street, with a note saying “[i]f included, transit lane operations will be determined in the future,” and sidewalk-level bikeways in both directions.

Sample Concept B has a one-directional dedicated bus lane. Image courtesy of Hennepin County

“Sample Concept A” had no dedicated bike or bus infrastructure, while “Sample Concept C” has sidewalk-level bikeways in both directions with no dedicated bus lane.

Sample Concept C has dedicated bike lanes in both directions. Image courtesy of Hennepin County

The Lyndale Avenue reconstruction area falls within Metro Transit’s Johnson/Lyndale corridor, a 17.1-mile stretch from St. Anthony to Bloomington that the transit authority has identified as a possible candidate for future arterial bus rapid transit service, otherwise known as aBRT. A Metro Transit concept route shows the Lyndale reconstruction area served by future bus rapid transit stops at Franklin Avenue, 26th Street, and Lake Street.

An October 2021 plan targets the Johnson/Lyndale corridor for implementation between 2030 and 2035, pending full funding availability.

That means any aBRT buildout along Lyndale Avenue is likely to come after reconstruction wraps up, Potter said. But one of the reconstruction project’s goals is to ensure the corridor is “arterial bus rapid transit-ready.”

Metro Transit may announce its next round of official aBRT corridor designations later this summer, Potter said.

Community feedback to date

Hennepin County began publicly reimagining Lyndale Avenue in 2019, when it sought community feedback on possible changes to the road’s design after neighbors raised alarms about its safety.

That process led to a 2022 pilot project that saw Lyndale “restriped” from four motor vehicle lanes to three and adding pedestrian-friendly crossing enhancements at 25th and 27th streets. The pilot resulted in a 57% reduction in overall crashes and a 48% decline in injury crashes, according to data displayed at an August 2023 open house at the Jungle Theater.

The community broadly supported the changes, with County data showing 83% of respondents “feel[ing] more comfortable walking or rolling across Lyndale Avenue now compared to before the 3-lane restriping” and 74% saying the same about driving on the street.

At Tuesday’s open house, pedestrian and cyclist safety was a “primary takeaway from previous engagement activities,” according to a County poster. The other two were “make improvements for more modes of transportation,” a priority reflected in the three sample concepts’ multimodal features, and “remember the business community,” emphasized in the concepts’ retention of parking and loading areas and enhanced pedestrian infrastructure. Sample concepts A and C have oversized sidewalks at transit stops.

Sample Concept A has an oversized sidewalk at the transit stop. Image courtesy of Hennepin County

But many business owners worry about what a redesigned Lyndale Avenue — and, before that, a two-to-three-year construction process — might mean for their livelihoods.

“We’re expecting business to be down 50% at our Grand Avenue [in St. Paul] location,” said French Meadow Bakery co-owner Steve Shapiro. That capital city thoroughfare, also known for its mix of locally owned businesses, will undergo a similarly disruptive reconstruction process beginning this year.

It’s too early to say how the Lyndale Avenue redesign project will impact French Meadow’s Lyndale location and the next-door CC Club, which French Meadow owns. But Shapiro said the Lyndale project won’t be as disruptive if Hennepin County follows St. Paul’s lead and reconstructs one side of the street at a time.

The timing and phasing of Lyndale Avenue’s reconstruction are still to be determined and could depend on how owners of sub-street utility infrastructure, such as sewer lines, want to proceed, Potter said.

But the County is taking lessons from the ongoing Hennepin Avenue reconstruction project, where the entire width of the street is disrupted in active construction areas.

“We want to see people still out on Lyndale [and local] businesses to survive and thrive,” he said.

What’s next for the Lyndale reconstruction project?

The Lyndale reconstruction project is now in the second phase of a four-phase community engagement process, according to a County board displayed at the open house.

After gathering feedback on section concepts this summer, the process will move into engagement phase three this fall: gathering feedback on “corridor layout design elements.” In a fourth and final engagement phase next spring, the County will gather feedback on the preferred layout for the redesigned street.

Potter emphasized that the current sample concepts are subject to change based on community feedback and encouraged neighbors and frequent Lyndale Avenue users who couldn’t attend the open house to fill out the County’s survey on the project.

Once the final design is set next summer, the project will move into a roughly year-long pre-construction phase that includes regulatory approvals and engineering design for the work. As of now, actual construction is set to begin in 2027 — though, like the sample concepts, the County says that’s subject to change.