Minneapolis 2040 Plan Big on Transportation

Mitch Bendis

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The year may be only 2018, but Minneapolis is looking twenty years down the road. Earlier this month, the Community Planning and Economic Development announced the preliminary version of its Minneapolis 2040 plan, a robust vision for the city’s future.

While this first draft is just skeleton of the final plan, its content is substantial. The plan’s mission is to foster economic growth in the city over the next twenty years, providing both citizens and public officials a framework in which to move the city forward. The committee responsible for the plan proudly proclaims that this plan will help Minneapolis “become a healthy, sustainable, and thriving place for all.”

The plan’s website crowns it as the Comprehensive Plan, and comprehensive it is. There is even an entire webpage dedicated solely to navigation instructions for the rest of the website. There are more than ten topics covered in the plan, ranging from transportation to housing and even to heritage preservation. Each topic is related to several specific policy initiatives supported by or originating from the committee. 

One topic that is rather robust is the committee’s proposed policies for transportation. Public mass transit is a hot topic in Minneapolis, one that is often intensely debated in certain political circles in the metro area. Committee members have identified transportation as a priority for Minneapolis, explicitly stating that they will place an emphasis on walking, biking, and transit. 

According to their Complete Street Policy, walking is king. Bikes, buses, light rail, and commuter rail follow in the priority list, with personal automobiles ranking dead last. While the committee states that the policy is mostly related to public right-of-way etiquette, the 2040 plan is dead set on fully implementing the Complete Street Policy across the city as a way to put first the needs of mass transit. This is obvious in the policies promoted as a part of the transportation portion of the plan: specific policies are laid out for improving the plight of pedestrians, bicyclists, and commuters, but there is almost no mention of personal automobiles.

One overlooked section of the transportation portion of the plan is the freight policy. The committee claims freight as an essential cog in the economic health of the city. Minneapolis’s relationship with trucks has improved over the last five years, with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reporting that in terms of average truck speed, the I-35 expressway through Minneapolis-St. Paul saw the most significant improvement out of any region in the country. I-35 has improved so much that the Twin Cities area moved out of the top 25 most congested freight-significant locations for the first time in decades.

With their freight policy, the committee hopes to expand on this success. Specifically with railfreight, the committee seeks to improve the city’s existing rail infrastructure, but refuses to endorse the construction of additional rail through Minneapolis. They will also encourage shipping corporations to utilize smaller vehicles, instead of large semi-trucks, in order to ensure safety and efficiency in dense urban areas of the city. Overall, the committee seeks to both leverage Minneapolis’s existing freight network while protecting communities from a cumbersome system.

Elsewhere in the Minneapolis 2040 plan, the committee lays out its various goals for the city over the next twenty years. From big, general statements like “more residents and jobs” or “clean environment” come surprisingly specific policy initiatives. In the “more residents and jobs” goal, one will find over twenty policies designed to accomplish that very goal. Many of these policies have to do with affordable housing, but others have targeted plans related to job creation, vocational training, and local cluster development.

The committee will report a more detailed Comprehensive plan to both the City Council and the Metropolitan Council by the end of this calendar year. Until then, the committee is actively soliciting advice on the policy initiatives from the general public until midsummer.