Imagine an Ayd Mill Linear Park

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Next Saturday, June 21, from 1-4pm, Neighborhoods First, a community group in Saint Paul’s Merriam Park, will be hosting an event on the corner of Summit Avenue and Syndicate Street. The event is titled “Imagine an Ayd Mill Linear Park.” There will be speakers, music, food and exhibits. It will be an opportunity for community members to look at what is currently known as “Ayd Mill Road” and imagine what it could look like as a linear park, or something other than a freeway.

The History

Ayd Mill Road runs from Selby Avenue at the northwest end to Jefferson Avenue and Interstate 35E on the southeast end. It was named for John Ayd, a German settler who maintained a grist mill and a residence there in the 1800s. Back then, there was a lake near what is now Cretin-Derham Hall. From this emanated a stream called the “Cascade Creek” which flowed north and then down the present-day ravine. Its waters were used to turn Ayd’s mill. Farmers came to the mill to have their corn ground. Later, Ayd stocked his millpond with trout and it became something of a tourist destination.

In the late 1880s, the Chicago Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad acquired part of the right-of-way along Cascade Creek to build a commuter rail line known as “The Short Line.” It carried interurban and passenger trains between Saint Paul’s Union Depot and the Milwaukee Road Depot in Minneapolis. Today, the track is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway and carries two Amtrak trains and multiple freight trains each day.

Google Maps

In the 1960s, at the height of our national freeway building frenzy, the City of Saint Paul began construction of what would become the “Short Line Road” adjacent to the rail line. Their idea was to create a connector highway between the still uncompleted Interstates 35E and 94. Community opposition in the Merriam Park and Summit Hill neighborhoods stopped the project and it was ended at Selby Avenue on the north and never connected to I-35E at the south. It remained that way for over 35 years. Along the way, in 1993, it was renamed “Ayd Mill Road” after John Ayd.

During the mayoral administration of Norm Coleman, a community task force was assembled to decide what to do with the land. They began a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to examine various alternatives. The choices presented were a four-lane connector freeway, a two-lane road, a “no build” option and a linear park. Coleman’s task force chose a linear park, as did the Lexington-Hamline and Snelling-Hamline Community Councils. Merriam Park selected “No Build” and even the city council passed a resolution supporting a two-lane road. Defying the task force and community groups, however, The Saint Paul Planning Commission directed that a four-lane freeway be the “Preferred Alternative” in the Final EIS.

The “Test”

In 2002, newly elected mayor Randy Kelly unilaterally connected the south end to I-35E, ostensibly as a “test,” but it was a test he made permanent. Then he and the Public Works Department pushed the four-lane freeway option in the final EIS, ramming it through over community opposition. Since then, the Public Works Department has been quietly acquiring property and the rights to build a major 4-lane freeway connection at the northwest end, linking the road to I-94. It would be an enormous new urban highway project that would involve new underpasses and flyovers and could easily cost fifty million dollars or more.

The process by which highway advocates have moved their freeway agenda forward is similar to what they’ve done with I-35E and countless other highway projects. First they get rights to a road. Then they widen it. Then they say “oh it’s just a ‘parkway’ that will only have 45 mph speeds and no trucks,” even as they build it to freeway standards and include all sorts of off-ramps and freeway peripherals. All the while, they grind down community opposition with endless meetings, create astroturf freeway support groups, use political connections to construction firms and engineering firms to pressure elected officials, and directly lobby neighborhoods and local chambers of commerce. Suddenly, they’ve built another freeway! A decade later, they’re widening it. Since World War II, we’ve watched this process in the Twin Cities over and over.

The Saint Paul Public Works Department has trotted out various justifications for a four-lane freeway connection between I-35E and I-94 along the existing Ayd Mill Road. They said it would help alleviate traffic congestion on the south end of Lexington Avenue, as suburbanites cut through the neighborhood from I-35E to get to I-94 and Minneapolis. After they opened the south end and moved all the traffic to the north, they claimed a connection to I-94 would alleviate traffic congestion at the north end on Selby. To be sure there is traffic congestion, but Public Works could make this go away by closing the highway entirely, reconfiguring the ramps near Lexington to make cut-through commuter traffic difficult or impossible, and putting in a connection between the two interstates downtown, in an area already destroyed by freeway interchanges.

The Public Works Department says that building a linear park is impossible because they acquired an easement for “Highway Purposes” from the railroad to build the Short Line Road. They claim that the railroad could take the land back if they made it into a bike trail and park. I sent a PDF of the original 1960 condemnation order that created the easement along with photos and maps to Andrea Ferster, the General Counsel of the national organization “Rails to Trails.” She said that the Minnesota Supreme Court has taken a broad view of road or rail easements, allowing them to be used for almost any public transportation purpose including bike trails and she pointed me to the case “State of Minnesota by Washington Wildlife Preservation, Inc. v. State of Minnesota and its Department of Natural Resources,” 329 N.W.2d 543 (Minn. 1983).

Even if the railroad could take the easement back, which is highly doubtful, it is a very thin sliver of the existing road and the land available in the ravine.

Ultimately, the Public Works Department wants a four-lane freeway because they are a road-building agency that is used to solving transportation problems with roads. As road-builders have preached for a hundred years, they mistakenly believe that they can build their way out of traffic congestion with yet more highways. Also, they know that connecting two federal interstates could qualify the project for federal highway dollars. While this might not be their primary motivation, there is no doubt the project would create a huge amount of work and cash flow for their agency.

The Vision

Competing against Public Works’ freeway vision is the desire by many to extend the Minneapolis Greenway across the Mississippi River and down the Ayd Mill Corridor, and the desire not to have our city bisected by yet another freeway, with its inherent noise, blight, and pollution. The Draft Saint Paul Bikeways Plan, the city’s Comprehensive Plan and many community plans have a Greenway Extension down the Ayd Mill corridor and, despite recent legal obstacles, there are reasons to believe this dream is still very much alive. If some residential or commercial development were included as part of a linear park, the city could collect additional property tax revenue from the land, rather than pay to maintain a road for suburbanites to reach Minneapolis ten minutes faster. Most of all, a Greenway would be an amazing park asset for multiple neighborhoods.

This is where all of you come in. Are you a designer, landscape architect, or a Photoshop artist? Check out Ayd Mill Road on Google satellite view, in street view and in person and imagine how the land might be used for something other than a freeway. It could be one hundred percent park, or some hybrid with a two-lane city street, bike trail and occasional housing or retail development on the western slope, tied into the existing neighborhood. This would be similar to what exists on Mississippi River Boulevard. Consider what the Midtown Greenway has done for Minneapolis or the value of real estate on Mississippi River Boulevard. Use your imagination. Create images, rough plan sets or other proposals and share them with us, with elected officials in Saint Paul and with Neighborhoods First. Cities across the USA have torn down or considering teardowns of old freeways. It would be a shame if Saint Paul built a new one. Check out freeway teardowns and planned tear-downs in Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Providence, Baltimore, Oklahoma City, New York City, and Syracuse . …and come to the “Imagine an Ayd Mill Linear Park” event on June 21!

Additional Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RldUNvE6p6Q

http://amrtf.weebly.com/history.html

http://www.streetfilms.org/mba-highway-removal/

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48 Responses to Imagine an Ayd Mill Linear Park

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke June 17, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    Nice summary Andy. I think the city is changing its tune on this project. I’m optimistic about building support for a vision that serves the people of Saint Paul and improves the quality of life for everyone living near this potentially beautiful spot.

    Here is some more Ayd Mill info: a podcast history (https://streets.mn/2014/01/27/podcast-56-ayd-mill-road-101-with-mike-madden/) and a few historical photos (https://streets.mn/2014/02/14/then-now-ayd-mill-road/).

  2. Froggie June 17, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    One major flaw in an otherwise-pretty-good historical analysis: almost every instance where you use the word “freeway” to describe the corridor is wrong. Freeways are fully controlled-access facilities, with access via interchanges only. What was built along Ayd Mill, and what was (post-90s) planned as an extension to I-94, includes at-grade intersections. Yes there are ramps to the cross-streets, but except at Jefferson Ave these connect to Ayd Mill via intersections with traffic signals. A freeway facility does not have at-grade intersections.

    A more appropriate identifier depends on how deep into engineering-speak one wants to get, plus what the speed limit would be and whether trucks are allowed or not. Ayd Mill Rd as it currently exists is basically a limited-access arterial.

    It’s true that, way back in the early 1960s, it was planned as a freeway (that would’ve connected directly to Snelling Ave just north of Marshall), but it was not built that way. I don’t have a definitive timeframe when a freeway upgrade was no longer planned or seriously considered (there’s very little literature on it), but my guess would be sometime 1980s or early 90s, as the late 1990s corridor studies did not have a full freeway alternative.

    Also, one nitpick: it’s “I-35E“, not “I-35”.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 17, 2014 at 9:49 am #

      While we’re nitpicking: “counsel” not “council” too.

  3. Eric June 17, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    As someone who used to live in Mac-Groveland, I can assure you that the road is not simply used for suburbanites to get to Minneapolis faster.

    Don’t get me wrong, I also think that it would be an awesome park, especially now that I don’t live around there anymore. But when I lived there that was a welcome shortcut through town.

    For the most part I support the movement to re-purpose urban freeways, but those typically work the best in downtown areas don’t they?

    • brad June 17, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      There are some times when it’s an especially handy N-S route. I’m thinking especially of when Summit or Grand get blocked off or restricted for events like the Marathon.

      • Janne Flisrand
        Janne June 22, 2014 at 8:22 am #

        These comments illustrate the concept of induced demand, and also of not wanting to give up something free if users have no skin in paying for it. (What is the cost per car of building/maintaining this route? The lost property tax of not having taxable uses in the corridor?)

  4. Hillary June 17, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    How would a park address safety concerns around being that close to an active rail line? I can’t imaging the rail lines being willing to give up the short line, especially since it’s one of the connections to the South St. Paul rail yards.

    • Janne Flisrand
      Janne June 22, 2014 at 8:27 am #

      The Cedar Lake Trail, the Kenilworth Trail, the Hiawatha LRT Trail and the Greenway in Minneapolis are all adjacent to active rail lines, some just a few feet away. There don’t seem to be issues, and I can’t recall any injuries due to the proximity. This has been solved elsewhere, and can be solved here.

  5. Matt Steele June 17, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    I think the CP Merriam Park Subdivision (the old Milwaukee Road short line) has huge potential to connect Mpls and St. Paul as we build out more regional/intercity rail services. I actually would like to see the rail ROW procured for passenger rail.

    I’d also like to see Ayd Mill Road stick around (but it could be two lane, it’s currently excess capacity) in exchange for massive traffic calming on Snelling and Lexington. This would be much more transformative in these neighborhoods.

    • Froggie June 17, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

      I can agree with this, but I think it would require a direct connection to I-94 in order to make traffic calming on Snelling viable.

  6. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary June 17, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Stopping unnecessary freeways is great, but I can’t help but feel that St. Paul shot itself in the foot (or, alternatively, sacrificed pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders) by putting a major truck route along TH 51 Snelling Avenue rather than the Pleasant Avenue “parkway” 35E.

    I would worry that closing Ayd Mill might have similar negative effects elsewhere — on streets with good, walkable business frontage. Since it’s already a grade-separated street that prohibits pedestrians and cyclists, it seems like converting to a true freeway gives urban advocates much to gain and little (other than a potential park) to lose.

    In fact, compared, 35E/Pleasant Ave, 35W, Crosstown, or 94, this corridor is already quite ready to be a freeway. Those other projects involved much more radical changes than this does.

    • Matt Steele June 17, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

      Indeed, there was already a grade separation. And there will continue to be, due to a railroad and a creek. This does seem like a natural place for a road, but I think there’s also an opportunity to beautify it, add a “bike freeway” etc. But I can’t see the roadway going away. And if it does, it will make things worse on un-calmed car sewers such as Snelling and Lexington.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary June 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

        A reasonable compromise option might be building it as a “super 2” (think the new TH 12 bypass through Long Lake) with a well-separated bikeway. This would have less aesthetic and noise impact than a full freeway, as well as provide a useful bikeway.

        I believe RIP35E’s original proposal for the Lexington Bridge was a 2-lane. So if they imagine 35E can be a 2-lane, I wonder if Ayd Mill has the potential to be…

      • Cameron Conway
        Cameron Conway June 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

        I’m not sure I buy that removing a road on Ayd Mill would actively make things worse on Snelling… and really, what does ‘worse’ look like? It’s already terrible for non-motorists, can it really get much worse? At least cars will stop for you crossing when they’re stopped in traffic.

        I’m way against the idea of a road here, it only re-justifies the idea that inner city freeways are ok. They’ve never been.

        Just out of curiosity, when you say that you can’t see the roadway going away, is that your assessment of the political will at play?

    • Cameron Conway
      Cameron Conway June 20, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      Unless you have a specific retail-fronted street in mind, I’m not sure it’s a great tactic to assume that allowing Ayd Mill to become a freeway is going to keep St. Paul’s Public Works from making more Snelling-style traffic funnels throughout the city… other than the fact that we’re running out of commercial streets that this hasn’t happened to.

      We need to start fighting the idea that building freeways will fix congestion so that amazing ideas like this can be built. I think urbanists have absolutely nothing to gain from compromise here, other than possibly the loudest and most polluted bikeway in the region.

  7. Monte Castleman
    Monte June 17, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    Guess the people of the neighborhood would rather I drive my car down Snelling where there’s an actual neighborhood as opposed to down in a trench next to a heavily used railroad line. No way am I driving all the way downtown to make the connection.

  8. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson June 17, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    I lived on Hague, I could touch O’Gara’s from by backyard, there is tremendous North-South traffic, and it is either going to use the neighborhood streets mixing with pedestrians (Lex, Ham, Snelling) or it can used this natural grade separated trench. Driver behavior being what it is, I believe connecting it to 94 AND capping the trench in as many locations as possible has the most positives.

    Green space for those wishing it were gone, a traffic funnel for those needing traffic off neighborhood streets.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke June 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

      Let’s imagine driver behavior not “being what it is.” For example, not running over people trying to cross the street…

      • Matty Lang
        Matty Lang June 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

        Right. Like on Snelling (almost) every day when I have to decide whether it’s an educable moment or not to give the british bird to motorists who don’t even slow down let alone stop for me starting from a block away while I’m crossing the street. Most times they even give me the motorist bird–aggressive horn sounding.

        “What are you doing daring to walk across this STATE TRUNK HIGHWAY!!!???” is what I imagine they are thinking, “SOMETIMES YOU EVEN DO IT WITH A 4 YEAR OLD CHILD!”

    • J Dregni June 17, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

      Ayd Mill Road without a north connection to 94 is a monster pushing traffic pressure onto small streets in the heart of the Midway. The proposed connection to 94 includes a tunnel UNDER the rail line, destroying the Concordia stadium, bridges over 94 and (FUN FUN) an overpass OVER Snelling Ave onto 94 west. This is completely absurd. Quality development of St Paul requires that we start providing equal amenities to other transit modes.

      • Matty Lang
        Matty Lang June 17, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

        Absolutely absurd. As the Suicide Commandos sang, “BURN IT DOWN!” 😉

        • Froggie June 18, 2014 at 9:28 am #

          That’s not the design I recall seeing 10 years ago. This was the recommended alternative from the 2005 EIS:

          https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajfroggie/14448264681/

          No destruction of the Concordia stadium (since it’s west of the rail spur and not east), and no bridges over Snelling Ave. Yes, a bridge over I-94, but that’s to replace the existing bridge at Pascal Ave.

          • Matt Steele June 18, 2014 at 9:38 am #

            I like that. And imagine how awesome Snelling could be with some major traffic calming. It could be three lane south of St. Clair rather than five, and it could use a complete redo near the Midway. Same goes for Lexington – maybe Lexington could turn the outer lanes into on-street parking during off-peak hours, and be buses/turns during peak hours.

          • Matt Brillhart June 18, 2014 at 10:53 am #

            That’s a lot of traffic signals in that short stretch. I wonder if some would work better as roundabouts or “dogbone” (http://goo.gl/maps/RG6hn).

            Why keep the connection from Ayd Mill to Selby (and Snelling, by extension)? I’d figure that would just go away entirely to get the traffic out of that pedestrian-friendly area. Push the traffic onto the frontage roads and keep it out of the neighborhood.

            • Froggie June 20, 2014 at 7:53 am #

              A “dogbone” might be possible at Concordia and St. Anthony…perhaps even preferable since those streets are one-way anyway. A roundabout may work at Marshall Ave.

              As for keeping the connection from Ayd Mill to Selby, I’d presume that would be a combination of local access and network spreading…especially since the ramp connector to Hamline would be removed under the preferred alternative.

              Regarding Matt’s comment, in order to entice enough traffic off of both Snelling and Lexington for traffic calming, Ayd Mill would have to remain 4 lanes.

  9. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson June 17, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Ayd Mill is a bugger of a problem, when it wasn’t connected at 35E, traffic on Lexington was looked at by residents on Lexington as apocalyptic, it got the Mayor to open up 35E and the relief on Lexington was immediate and welcomed. It just moved the traffic and spilled it out on Snelling between Selby and 94. At that time it was Lexington and Grand vs Selby and Snelling and the Grand Ave contingent won.

    If the road connection is removed from Ayd Mill traffic will go back to Lexington. Politically delicate.

    Since I’m throwing out imaginary freeway caps like flower petals at a wedding, if connecting Ayd Mill needs to take out the college playing fields, put a cap over 94 and rebuild on top of that.

    • Janne Flisrand
      Janne June 22, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      Has the relief on Lexington stuck, or has the excess capacity filled back up since the original connection was made?

      Traffic calming isn’t a zero-sum game, so while some traffic moves between options, other traffic disappears.

  10. paddy June 18, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    This is so stupid I’m at a loss for words. I thank god that there are actual adults in charge some times.

    What should I name my new advocacy group?

    P.A.M.P.E.R.E.D. (Prevent Ayd Mill Park Ejits Ruining Everyday Driving)?

    S.A.M.F.U.N (not quite as catchy) Save Ayd Mill From Urbanists Nitwits?

    I’m open to ideas

  11. Teri June 18, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    “[T]here are reasons to believe this dream is still very much alive” is a gross misstatement. The Candian Pacific Rail is adamant that the right-of-way granted the City for Ayd Mill Road be used for “transportation” only and it has been successful in court over and over again in NOT ALLOWING the City of St. Paul to use that land for anything that might be considered recreation, including a bicycle path, and their position on this has been upheld in court. (See for example http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/sites/tcdailyplanet.net/files/Canadian%20Pacific%20judgment_0.pdf)

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer June 19, 2014 at 12:28 am #

      Teri, the Daily Planet piece refers to when the city tried to condemn MORE railroad land next to the railroad tracks back in 2009 so that it could easily still build a 4-lane highway and still accommodate a bikeway. The then city attorney (now county attorney) John Choi advised the city to go ahead with the condemnation, not realizing that a federal statute had been passed in the mid 1990s that now forbids cities or states from condemning railroad land. So the railroad got the condemnation dismissed on a motion to that statute. …But there is plenty of land on or next to the existing roadway (within the Ayd Mill Corridor) to build a bike trail. This land (a small part of which is an easement from 1960 and the rest owned outright) belongs to the city. The issue is will that bike trail be next to a 4-lane highway, a 2-lane street or purely in a park? All of those options are legally possible. Look at the links I provided (highlighted words) in the piece. North of the Ayd Mill corridor, the only way to obtain an easement (to the Mississippi and the Minneapolis Greenway) is through abandonment by the railroad or negotiation. From the river to Prior, there is a high probability of abandonment in the next 10-20 years as the grain elevators on Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis are the last businesses served by that line. East of Prior (to the Ayd Mill Corridor), some kind of negotiated agreement would have to happen but the city and county have bargaining power (if they really want to get something done) as there are other things in Ramsey County (or the city) that CP rail wants that the county could potentially provide.

      • Teri June 19, 2014 at 9:32 am #

        Hi Andy: The Railroad has repeatedly refused to allow the land it owns (and eases to St. Paul) to be used for the only thing it was eased for: transportation. St. Paul tried condemning because nothing else worked, and obviously condemning didn’t work either. The only current possibility is a bike trail on the western side of a ROAD. No park. There is only a very narrow strip of land on that western side of the road that belongs to the city… not “plenty of land.” Your response suggests the City hasn’t tried very hard already to negotiate with CP, but I think it has. Your vision of Ayd Mill Park is a dream at BEST more than a decade down the road. It is the railroad—not the city—putting up the mile-high hurdle, and your vision is for when our kids are out of college and we’ve died or moved away. In the meantime, the traffic around our neighborhood is ruining it. Instead of visioning a park, let’s vision a better parkWAY. Maybe even one we close on weekends in the summer for bicycle use – like the Rock Creek Trail in Washington DC. I get that that isn’t the connected bike trail you imagine, but… life has given us lemons, let’s make lemonaid not wait for the lemons to rot while we dream about tropical nectar!

        • Andy Singer
          Andy Singer June 20, 2014 at 1:52 am #

          The city wanted MORE land from the railroad and the railroad refused to negotiate because it has plans to double track that line and also wants the east side access road space. What we’re talking about is repurposing the city’s portion of the existing land for a bike trail, something that is totally legal in state law (I gave you a link below your other comment but it’s also in the article). The city wanted more land because, long term, it wants a 4-lane freeway and didn’t want any bike trail to interfere with that. If it choses a 2-lane road (or a park), there’s plenty of space and the Minnesota Supreme court has ruled that a bike trail is a legitimate “transportation purpose” on any easement that was previous acquired for a different public transportation mode. See link to court case below. I got this from the General Counsel of Rails to Trails who’s seen the original 1960-61 condemnation order and looked at maps– https://www.courtlistener.com/minn/97hG/state-by-wash-wildlife-preservation-v-state/

        • Andy Singer
          Andy Singer June 20, 2014 at 2:00 am #

          Teri, see my comment below …but if you want to read them, I have the Railroad’s original “Complaint” and the city’s “Answer” from court documents in the 2009 condemnation attempt. I’d be happy to e-mail them to you if you give me your e-mail address. I was on the old Greeway Committee that Saint Paul Smart Trips and Russ Stark organized so I’m aware of what negotiations happened and the nature of the latest condemnation attempt.

          • Teri June 20, 2014 at 8:16 am #

            “What we’re talking about is repurposing the city’s portion of the existing land for a bike trail…”

            This article is entitled “Imagine an Ayd Mill Linear Park.” It asks people to submit their ideas for something that “could be one hundred percent park, or some hybrid with a two-lane city street, bike trail and occasional housing or retail development on the western slope, tied into the existing neighborhood.” See the picture at the top of the article.

            The city’s portion of the existing land is on the west side of the road only, and I believe it is only the shoulder, embankment, ramps, etc. A bike path there, though possibly better than nothing, would be frequently broken up by the exit ramps.

            The picture at the top, on the left, is an “Ayd Mill Freeway.” An alternative, with a clear transportation purpose, is an “Ayd Mill Parkway,” which would be curvy, relatively slow moving, and with a lot of greenery around. And maybe a bike path on the west side… with gentle underpasses?

            • Teri June 20, 2014 at 8:29 am #

              BTW: I’m talking about the condemnation the city tried in 2010. In it the City of St. Paul “seeks to acquire a 24-foot wide strip of the [active railroad] right-of-way [owned by Canadian Pacific] along Ayd Mill Road between Marshall Avenue and Victoria Street for the development of a bicycle/pedestrian trail.” The city was not seeking MORE land. The request was summarily denied.

              • Matt Steele June 20, 2014 at 9:32 am #

                Denied by whom? The Federal Railroad Administration? Anywhere we can read up on the history of this? It’s fascinating to me.

                Teri, would you ever consider writing a more detailed history piece about Ayd Mill? You seem to be an expert on this, and I think we could all benefit from your experience in the neighborhood and on this project! Just a friendly thought.

                • Eric Anondson
                  Eric Anondson June 20, 2014 at 10:08 am #

                  In 1991-92 one of my geography professors at the U taught a course I call was something like “Language of Geography”. He went on many tangents on how he used his knowledge of geographic principles for personal benefit. Once how he bought minimally performing farmland in the Wisconson driftless region where he saw a farmer using horrible practices causing erosion so he began constructing solid barriers to capture the soil runoff on his property. Many years later the farmer at the top of the hill ended up buying the professor’s land which now had thick topsoil.

                  Anyway, he had another tangent on how in the 80s he bought a home in the SnellHam neighborhood during a past effort to connect Short Line to 35E. He described how he was part of the neighborhood activists who rallied to get the city to put up barricades at the constructed connections. With the connections blocked he sold his home with a tidy profit since the neighborhood would be spared freeway level traffic and his home value spiked.

              • Andy Singer
                Andy Singer June 20, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

                Yes, it WAS seeking to acquire more land– a 24 foot wide strip (you said it yourself). I have the legal complaint and answer from 2009 and 2010 and I saw all the plan sets (made by Public Works) for the bikeway they were proposing. They were shown to the Greenway Committee (on which I served) and to the now defunct Bicycle Advisory Board where I was also volunteering. Additionally, I’ve seen the plan sets for the original condemnations in 1960-61 and the land involved is less than half of the existing roadway– about a lane’s worth and some shoulder. I’ve also talked to an attorney for Rails to Trails (who’s seen all these documents) and If there was a public, mixed use pathway or bike and walk paths as part of park, the Minnesota Supreme court and Rails to Trails believe this would qualify for “transportation purposes.” By contrast Public Works has offered no legal opinions (or cases) to support its sometimes stated contention that “The Railroad could take the land back if we build anything besides a 4-lane highway” (despite us asking them to produce such an opinion (by an attorney). So I stand by my assertion that pretty much anything is legally possible.

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer June 19, 2014 at 12:32 am #

      This is totally doable. Take the eastern two lanes for a linear park. Install crosswalks at the various traffic lights to get people up into the neighborhoods.

      • Teri June 19, 2014 at 9:37 am #

        Nope, can’t do that. The eastern two lanes are eased to the city for transportation only. There isn’t a strip wide enough on the western side for a linear park, and it there were it would be broken up by exit/entry ramps.

        • Andy Singer
          Andy Singer June 20, 2014 at 1:39 am #

          Read the Minnesota Supreme court case linked to in the piece, given to me by the General Counsel of Rails to Trails. Public bike trails are explicitly considered “transportation purpose” in state property law (covering easements for both highways and rail lines)– https://www.courtlistener.com/minn/97hG/state-by-wash-wildlife-preservation-v-state/

          • Teri June 20, 2014 at 8:04 am #

            You said “Take the eastern two lanes for a linear park.” A linear park is without question NOT a transportation purpose.

            I thought I knew that bike trails were ruled also not a transportation purpose, but I will double check.

            I tried very hard to find official word on where the RR land ends and where City land starts on Ayd Mill Road, but couldn’t do it. I was definitely given the impression that ALL of the land on which the road lies is RR land, and only the land west of the road (shoulder, embankment, ramps) is city land.

            • Bill Lindeke
              Bill Lindeke June 20, 2014 at 10:52 am #

              Seems like Andy has done his homework on this [see the above quote from the piece]:

              The Public Works Department says that building a linear park is impossible because they acquired an easement for “Highway Purposes” from the railroad to build the Short Line Road. They claim that the railroad could take the land back if they made it into a bike trail and park. I sent a PDF of the original 1960 condemnation order that created the easement along with photos and maps to Andrea Ferster, the General Counsel of the national organization “Rails to Trails.” She said that the Minnesota Supreme Court has taken a broad view of road or rail easements, allowing them to be used for almost any public transportation purpose including bike trails and she pointed me to the case “State of Minnesota by Washington Wildlife Preservation, Inc. v. State of Minnesota and its Department of Natural Resources,” 329 N.W.2d 543 (Minn. 1983).

              • Teri June 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

                But… this is an article about building a PARK. Is there a court decision that makes a park a “highway purpose?”

                • Matt Steele June 20, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

                  Is the greenway a park or a transportation facility? What about the bike paths along Mississippi River or Minnehaha Creek? They’re primarily a transportation facility, even if designated as park space.

                  • Teri June 21, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

                    The greenway is not owned by Canadian Pacific Railway. The land on which Ayd Mill Road runs is. And the owners are very clear that they don’t want a park there.

  12. St. Paul Mom June 23, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    Folks- Saint Paul Parks and Rec has created a beautiful park from the abandoned rail yard in Trout Brook Valley – just north of downtown, near I-35E and Cayuga. This park exists next to an very active rail line, and beneath a steep hill – just like Ayd Mill would. There is precedent for the city responding to a neighborhoods desire for a park. We just need to speak up!

    http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=4177

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