Why Are the Twin Cities’ Downtown Streets as Wide as Chicago’s…or Even More?

Having made numerous pit stops in Chicago bouncing back and forth between the Twin Cities and Columbus I noticed more and more the glaring differences in building heights between our cities contrasted with street widths which are surprisingly similar.

Major Two-Way Streets:

W Congress: Chicago

S Washington: Minneapolis

W Kellogg: St Paul

If Chicago with roughly 3x as many people as both Twin Cities combined were to change W Congress overnight to Twin Cities’ standards come tomorrow morning it would have a whopping 12 travel lanes with six in each direction plus at least one additional turn lane and one more lane for parking: 14 lanes total. That’s stupid. Yet we’re maintaining downtown streets which are just as stupidly wide right now: we neither have the city population nor metro population to justify their current widths.

As of this year, Washington is going to lose a lane in each direction to a protected bikeway. Even after this reduction it looks like there will be four lanes of traffic protected bike lanes aside: the same amount as today, which makes me think we probably aren’t putting on roads on the diets they really need.

Next let’s compare one-way streets.

W Monroe: Chicago

S 10th: Minneapolis

W Jackson: Chicago

E 6th: St Paul

Minneapolis may be getting a protected bikeway right on S 10th and St Paul is due to lose a lane on four streets for a bike path loop, but again even with those reductions it still leaves the street with at least as many lanes as their Chicago counterparts or more. Keep in mind that not only is Chicago 3x the size of the Twin Cities alone but their total metro is also 3x that of the Twin Cities clocking in at 9.7 million to our 3.3 million. I think it’s time for the local pro-urban crowd to reevaluate altogether what we should be asking for in our downtowns and frame it in this context, because while some locals like to boast that we’re not Chicago, they seem to somehow come to the conclusion that we’re the much bigger of the two based on how we’ve built and are maintaining our street widths. There is simply no justification for why our downtowns are accommodating as many or more traffic lanes than big cities like Chicago. None whatsoever.


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