Grand Avenue and Syndicate Intersection Needs Improvement

Last Tuesday at 9pm, a 29 year old woman was hit by a car at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Syndicate Street. She is expected to survive but suffered a fractured skull, which, for some, can be a life-altering injury. While there is no information on the exact cause, this is a terrible intersection and she is not the first pedestrian to get hit there. I, personally, have almost been hit. Over the years, I’ve been to at least two meetings about it with The Saint Paul Public Works Department and nearby businesses but nothing has been done to improve the situation.

This portion of Grand Avenue has a lot of high-speed motor vehicle traffic. A block east of the intersection, the street widens, and there is a high-speed bridge over Ayd Mill Road and entrance and exit ramps coming up from it. Around this intersection are two apartment buildings, Kowalski’s Supermarket, two bus stops, and Everest on Grand, a popular Tibetan Restaurant. Kowalski’s has 3 driveways facing Grand going in and out of its lower parking lot. The last of these is just  a foot or two from the corner of Syndicate. Most of the time, drivers of exiting vehicles just look left for on-coming traffic on Grand before turning right (westbound). This puts pedestrians in that intersection at risk of “Right Hook” accidents. This last driveway is totally unnecessary and should be eliminated. There is an additional driveway into this lower lot off of Syndicate and eliminating this last Grand Avenue driveway would cost Kowalski’s two parking spaces, at most. But, to my knowledge, Kowalski’s has refused to give it up. It’s sad because many of the pedestrians who are crossing Grand are trying to get to their store …and dead pedestrians don’t make very good customers.

Grand Avenue near the Syndicate / Ayd Mill Road intersection.

Grand Avenue near the Syndicate / Ayd Mill Road intersection.

In addition to the Kowalski driveway situation, there are no marked crosswalks at the intersection, and no pedestrian warning signage. Once, over the summer, the Public Works Department put in a center-mounted paddle sign that says “Stop for pedestrians in Crosswalk, State Law.” It’s a good sign, but there are no crosswalks, so it’s confusing and the sign got removed in the fall, presumably because Public Works thought it might interfere with winter plowing. It is absolutely unconscionable that Public Works has done nothing to improve this intersection and even more unconscionable that Kowalski’s has resisted their half-hearted efforts to improve it.

If these folks give a damn about anything besides automobiles, the following things should happen. First, the western-most Kowalski’s driveway should be removed or made into an “entrance-only” driveway. Second, painted “Colonial,” striped crosswalks should be added to all four corner crossings and “pedestrian crossing” pavement markings should be put on Grand, east and west of the intersection to warn motorists. Finally, a small pedestrian island should be added to the east side of intersection, in the middle of Grand Avenue, with protective bollards and “Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk, State Law” paddle signs (or signs attached to the bollards), and the signs should be left there year-round. If these three measures don’t work, a pedestrian-activated flashing light should be added, overhead. There is a lot of car, pedestrian and bicycle traffic around this intersection, much of it going to and from Kowalski’s. It’s time the city of Saint Paul and Kowalski’s did something to improve pedestrian safety. How many people have to get hit or killed before they act?


Andy Singer

About Andy Singer

Andy Singer served as volunteer co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition off and on for 13 years. He works as a professional cartoonist and illustrator and has authored four books including his last, "Why We Drive," which examines environmental, land use and political issues in transportation. You can see more of his cartoons at