With snow, ice and freezing temperatures bringing the 2014 street repair season to an early close, I decided it was time to see what progress has been made to address the sorry state of Saint Paul’s streets and bridges, and what is planned for 2015.
Fairview I-94 Underpass — Photo by Andy Rathbun, Pioneer Press
First, what is the status of the “Terrible Twenty” worst arterial streets in Saint Paul? As reported in a previous article, the City Council in July agreed to add $2.5 million to the Public Works budget for an Emergency Mill and Overlay project to repave eleven of the “Terrible Twenty” streets. (Link to list of streets) The good news is that all eleven streets were repaved by early November, although a few finishing touches will be needed in the spring.
Photos by Jean Pieri, Pioneer Press
That leaves nine more of the “Terrible 20” that are scheduled to be resurfaced, reconstructed or in design by the end of 2015. Hopefully there will be time to plan for improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities, not just repaving. The additional streets on the “Terrible 20” list are:
- Rankin Street – 7th to Shepard
- Homer Street – 7th to Shepard
- Mississippi Boulevard – Marshall to Emerald
- Battle Creek Road – Upper Afton Rd to Lower Afton Rd
- Front Avenue – Dale to Western
- Lafayette Road – Eaton to Fillmore
- Summit Avenue – Ramsey to Selby
- Earl Street – Maryland to York
- Oakdale Street – State to Annapolis
- Lafayette Road – 7th to Grove
Assuming the Mayor’s proposed budget is adopted, two additional funds will be added to the pot of money to be devoted to street repairs and reconstruction in 2015 – the 8-80 Vitality Fund and the Streets Vitality Paving fund (SPSVP).
The 8-80 Vitality fund is a $42.5 million one-time investment that includes a variety of projects to make Saint Paul more vibrant and livable. About two thirds of it will go to transportation improvements, including street reconstruction, bike facilities and trails. The two top priorities are to reconstruct Jackson Street, including installation of a two-way, off-street bike trail as the first leg of a downtown bike network loop ($8M), and to add to the Grand Round by completing three additional bike trail segments on Wheelock Parkway, Johnson Parkway and Pelham Boulevard ($13.2M).
Photo courtesy of Twin City Sidewalk blog
Other smaller projects proposed for the 8-80 Vitality Fund include:
- $2.5M for reconstruction of St Clair Avenue from Albert to 7th
- $1M for realignment and parking improvements on Bedford Avenue
- $525,000 toward additional ½ mile of planted medians on North Snelling
- $1.5M for addition of a turn lane on Randolph Avenue at Lexington
- $400,000 for bike lane striping (locations to be determined from Bike Plan)
Meanwhile, the Streets Vitality Paving fund (SPSVP) is designed to provide ongoing annual funding for street improvements. According to Paul Kurtz at Public Works, “The SPSVP name replaces the RSVP name for street reconstruction/rehab projects…because we are now including arterial streets in the program – not just residential streets.”
For 2015, the SPSVP Fund will total $14.5 million, $2 million more than the $12.5 million budgeted for the RSVP program in the past. Two thirds will go to arterial streets, which are in worse shape than residential streets at the moment, with just a third of the total amount allotted to residential street reconstruction. After 2015, the funding for SPSVP will be reduced to $12.5 million annually, and for at least the next 5-10 years, it’s anticipated that two thirds of the funding will continue to be devoted to arterials.
Here is the list of 2015 SPSVP Projects totaling $14.5 million
- Como/Chatsworth Residential Area (Phase 1) $4.5M
- Kellogg Boulevard Rehabilitation – Marion to W 7th $3.6M
- Third Street Reconstruction – Arcade to Johnson $3.5M
- St Clair Rehabilitation – Albert to Snelling $1.4M
- Franklin Avenue Reconstruction – Pelham to Emerald $1.5M
You may have noticed that St Clair Avenue projects appear on both the 8-80 and SPSVP lists. So St Clair will be rehabilitated from Snelling to Victoria in 2015, with both projects to be let under one contract.
Photo courtesy of City of Saint Paul
Looking to 2016, the SPSVP funding will be reduced to $12.5 million, with plans calling for additional work on two projects that will be started in 2015 — the Como/Chatsworth residential area ($3.3M) and the Third Street reconstruction, from Johnson to McKnight ($4.0M). Other 2016 street reconstruction projects are proposed for Seventh Street, Minnehaha to Johnson ($3.6M), Grand Avenue, Dale to Oakland ($0.7M) and Western Avenue, Selby to Summit ($0.9M).
There are also a number of state highways scheduled for resurfacing in 2015, including Snelling Avenue from Selby Avenue to the State Fairgrounds. This project will include replacement of the bridge deck over I-94, with a three-month closure of the Snelling bridge from May to August. Ramsey County will also be reconstructing a number of county roads, among them parts of White Bear Avenue, Randolph Avenue, Raymond Avenue and Maryland Avenue. The City of Saint Paul will contribute to the costs of these projects as well, to provide upgraded traffic signals, street lighting and any other above standard project elements.
Photo courtesy of Transit for Livable Communities
So there will be plenty of construction going on in 2015. This will be disruptive but necessary. Because Saint Paul has fallen way behind on road maintenance, it is critical that we invest heavily in the next few years to repave our streets and to reconfigure them to better accommodate pedestrians and bicycles as well as cars. The 8-80 and SPSVP funds are a good first step to jumpstart the process in 2015. But it will be important in the future not only to continue investing in road maintenance, but also to use every opportunity to complete our streets by expanding the network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities to connect people to jobs, schools, shops, services and parks throughout the city.
Proposed Saint Paul Greenway extension, conceptual rendering by Cindy Zerge