Mpls, Hennepin officials talking Lake Street ped safety improvements in wake of Barton tragedy

Caitlan Barton was killed while trying to cross this intersection from right to left.
Caitlan Barton was killed while trying to cross this intersection from right to left.

On February 13, 25-year-old Caitlan Barton was hit by a truck and killed while walking south across Lake Street, with the walk light on, where it intersects with Market Place near Lake Calhoun. Minneapolis police say it's likely the driver, who had a green light and was turning right from Market onto Lake Street, simply never saw her.

In the wake of that tragedy, Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials are talking about short- and long-term safety improvements to that stretch of Lake Street and adjacent roads.

Council Member Linea Palmisano told us she's meeting with a Public Works official today in hopes of solidifying a timeline for short-term improvements that can be completed within the next three to six months.

Asked what improvements she'd like to see, Palmisano cited lighting deficiencies.

"That specific corner is lit but like most county roads in that area it's lit to light up the street and the light is very high up, so it doesn't provide visibility for pedestrians," Palmisano says.

She also cited problems created in the winter by huge mounds of snow being plowed to the corner of Lake and Market.

"You have so much volume of snow that people stop seeing pedestrians because, literally, the snow bank is over half as high as most pedestrians are," she says.

The two major thoroughfares in that area, Lake Street and Excelsior Boulevard, are both Hennepin County roads, but Palmisano and Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman are on the same page with regard to the pedestrian safety issue.

"We owe it to Caitlan and her family and friends to implement interim measures that can be taken as soon as possible to make it safer," Dorfman told us. "It shouldn't be driven by a tragedy like this, but hopefully we'll learn from this."

"If you walk around that area you know it's not safe for pedestrians or bikers," Dorfman says. "We've had three or four deaths in that area over the last couple years, so Caitlan is not the first."

Longer term, both Palmisano and Dorfman cited the construction of a Southwest Light Rail station in the Lake and Market area as something that'll usher in more comprehensive pedestrian improvements.

"I've always been interested to figure out the specific location of the light rail route because I'm so eager to turn that planning conversation into one about stations," Palmisano says. "Because when they start to talk about stations in the area, that's what will command major investment in that corridor and make it much more navicable. That's how we get the major capital improvements."

Palmisano noted that the conversation about pedestrian improvements in the Lake Street area was already happening before Barton's tragic death. In fact, on the night of the accident that claimed Barton's life, Palmisano and other city and neighborhood officials were taking part in a "safety walk" and they encountered the scene of the accident on their way back to Calhoun Village.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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