Minneapolis discusses options for barricaded ‘autonomous zone’

The Minneapolis Public Works Department held a virtual open house Thursday night to discuss options for slowly starting to reopen barricaded areas between 37th and 39th streets and Columbus and Elliot avenues.

The area surrounds the George Floyd Memorial near the location where Floyd died while in police custody in late May. Concrete barricades and other movable barriers went up about a week after Floyd died, and some business owners and residents have expressed concerns over what they said was an increase in violent crime in and around the zone, along with delayed response from police because of the barricades.

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Alexander Kato is a traffic planner with the Minneapolis Public Works Department, and he told residents attending the virtual open house that there are several traffic options the city is exploring and there will be public comment, city council committee hearings and more community input before any of the options are finalized.

“There is not a definitive timetable for starting to remove the barricades, and there is no date set for their permanent removal,” Kato said. “Right now, these are interim options we are looking at and public comment will go through Oct. 6.”

The city is looking at several options, each of which would reroute traffic in and around the four-block zone. One plan would create one-way traffic on a portion of Chicago Avenue.

“We know that public safety is also a very key component to all of this, and we will continue to talk with all of the stakeholders about that issue,” Kato said. “I know the city is talking with people who live and work here and with a group that’s working down here, and those talks are still ongoing.”