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 is doing his second tour as volunteer co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. He works as a professional cartoonist and illustrator and has authored of four books including his latest, "Why We Drive," which examines environmental, land use and political issues in transportation. You can see more of his cartoons at

12 thoughts on “Grand Avenue and Syndicate Intersection Needs Improvement

  1. Peter

    The post mentions no marked crosswalks here. The City of St. Paul physically removed a bunch of painted crosswalks last fall as part of a “crosswalk consolidation program,” though I’m not sure if this was one of them. In reality, people just want to be able to cross the street safely without having to walk 1/2 mile out of the way to get to a crosswalk engineers deem “safe” enough to warrant paint.

  2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Grand Avenue should be made back in to a friendly street and through traffic sent elsewhere. There are hundreds of people every day who want to and do cross all along it’s length. Someone at a store mid-block who wants to go to a cafe directly across the street isn’t going to walk an extra block to a crosswalk. The entire avenue should be a 20mph zone. Maybe block it off every few blocks and make a series of woonerf’s.

    1. Kele

      I don’t spend much time in the area, but I was considering an apartment on Grand Ave last year, but was caught off guard by how busy the street was. Not just cars, but large trucks too. I decided against the apartment because it faced Grand Ave which was just too noisy. It isn’t at all what I expected! It was more like Snelling than I thought it would be.

  3. David LevinsonDavid Levinson

    I don’t think marking the crosswalks would make much of a difference. The evidence is mixed at best.

    The law says there are crosswalks at intersections regardless of whether they are marked, and marking some de-emphasizes all the others, giving drivers false confidence. Unless we mark them all, I believe we should mark none, make the road self-explaining without signs and markings (through things like changed pavement surfaces, woonerfs, and so on) and remind drivers to stop for pedestrians.

    1. Cadillac Kolstad

      David, Great point. Painted crosswalks create confusion. What we do need is more enforcement of the crosswalk law. Dealing with this issue of menacing and dangerous driving (a problem all over the twin cities) by enforcing existing laws would go long way toward facilitating a better pedestrian environment!!!!

  4. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Years ago, I noticed this very intersection, with its useless crosswalk paddle. I took a picture of it, but it’s lost in my hard drive somewhere.

    David, IMO your idea works only if we do a lot of traffic calming on the street as well. The other alternative is that if we create streets with no crosswalks and wide, straight lanes, we create a culture where nobody ever takes notice of pedestrians and everyone plays Frogger all the time and gets run over like in Florida.

    I think having Ayd Mill Road nearby is also part of why this intersection is dangerous. Near freeway onramps, people drive more quickly and take less notice of pedestrians.

  5. bw

    Used to live right at this intersection. I think its not all that bad, considering there’s a parking lot there, but would help to have some traffic calming. Speed humps designed for 20-25 mph would help. Also, developing the parking lot into mixed use and underground parking for kowalski’s may also help, you could reorient more as a pedestrian land use. (Same goes for the Lund’s in uptown actually – very similar issues present.

  6. Nathaniel

    We should also extend this to Grand & Hamline. The bridge closure has made the traffic volumes lower, and it got me thinking: do we even need the bridge? Anyway – good post!

  7. Mary Beth

    We have lived near this intersection for 15 years and cross it many times a week. What makes it more difficult to cross from south to north is that Grand ave has a small rise toward Hamline, making it harder to see (and harder for cars to see people). I have called a few times over the years about getting a striped crosswalk there — especially since it is a much-used bus stop too, and was told various things about why it wasn’t possible.

    I know a crosswalk wouldn’t solve all problems — like the fact that drivers don’t seem to know about laws regarding pedestrians — but it would certainly help. Has anyone tried to work with Kowalski’s directly on this issue?

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      Beth, I went to two meetings that were either organized by Public Works or the Mac/Groveland Transportation Committee– both in Edgecumbe Recreation Center just south of there. At the second one, no one from Kowalski’s showed up but the Public Works engineer (a woman) explained that Kowalski’s was opposed to removing the last driveway, which meant the engineers didn’t feel comfortable putting a crosswalk on the east side of the intersection. This was many years ago before I got heavily involved with the bike coalition and the city so I don’t remember names of the participants. The engineer presented a couple options but absolutely nothing happened. It would certainly be worth getting a petition or a bunch of people together and talking to management at Kowalski’s …and, before that, talking to some folks on the Mac/Groveland District Council Transportation Committee to see what’s happened (if anything) in recent years.

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