West Saint Paul Mayor Tries to Kill Robert Street Pedestrian Amenities

Robert Street in West Saint Paul. Img via Finance and Commerce.

Robert Street in West Saint Paul. Img via Finance and Commerce.

According to a recent article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the reconstruction of Robert Street in West St. Paul is bumping up against some cost overruns.

Says newly elected Mayor Dave Meisinger:

“So the numbers are increasing and increasing and increasing,” said Meisinger, who was elected in November after campaigning against the ballooning cost of the project.

So what does Mayor Meisinger propose to do about the escalating price tag? Postpone the small percentage of the project aimed at making Robert Street a little bit nicer of a place to walk around.

“When the additional funding is found,” he said, “we can finish the monuments and the railings — everything fancy-schmancy.”

It seems the Mayor may be very happy with Robert Street remaining just as it was, as are at least some of West St. Paul’s residents who were attracted to the city by its sprawly suburban character, according to the video embedded above, which was produced in 2008 as an unofficial recruitment promotion.

Uploaded on Jan 20, 2008

We just had to tell you about our wonderful city and why we moved here. Special thanks to Darin, Rebecca, Grandma, and Dr. Song Fixer.

Matty Lang

About Matty Lang

Matty Lang has been interested in land use, transportation, and cities since he fell in love with Paris, France while studying there in 1998-1999. He is a filmmaker living in Minneapolis. He loves film, bicycling, and basketball. Follow him: Vimeo | @MattyLangMSP | Facebook

16 thoughts on “West Saint Paul Mayor Tries to Kill Robert Street Pedestrian Amenities

  1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    I think the video is largely tongue-in-cheek. Although Carolyn does an awesome job of capturing a grim auto-oriented aesthetic, I’m not sure she’s seriously saying she wishes things to remain that way. (Note that on the lyric, “you can complete your errands… conveniently” you see congested auto traffic and a pedestrian awkwardly maneuvering around a fence on Robert St.) And I agree with Bill… I particularly covet the 3M building one from her site.

    The mayor’s comments are crappy, but priorities aside, it’s hard to pull out the auto-oriented features at this point (already under construction). Sure, you can save a buttload by doing 3 lanes instead of 5, but they can’t just skip a mile of travel lane — while you can skip tree planting and monuments, even though you shouldn’t.

    Not sure what the solution is to this, other than “more money” and “less road” (early on). Another option, of course, is doing ped projects as completely separate projects (like Southdale/France Ave). But I think that would lead to a lot less ped projects happening — whereas now they get to piggyback on bigger, more expensive road projects.

  2. Urbster

    It’s highly unlikely that those “fancy-schmancy” improvements would ever get done later. Why? Because MnDOT is paying for more than half of the project in exchange for the West St. Paul taking it over (becoming a city, not state road). Saying nothing of the fact that when a road is being reconstruction, you should make ALL the necessary improvements.

  3. Aaron Berger

    I used to work in West St. Paul. They don’t just need monuments and railings – they need sidewalks. Every day there, summer or winter, you see people walking in 35 mph streets. When I first read the headline I thought you said the mayor was trying to kill pedestrians. It’s close enough to the truth.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        Interesting. I’ve only spent much time in the northern half of WSP, north of Emerson, and especially north of Butler, where things have a pretty charming traditional form — gridded blocks, small commercial areas, alleys, and at least some sidewalks. But that Marie Ave example is shocking. I don’t endorse it, but it’s understandable to end up with unlaned minor streets with no sidewalks. But a five-lane divided street with no sidewalk on either side, and it’s a bus route!

        I just can’t imagine how they got to the point of building the street that wide without thinking “now might be the time to add a sidewalk or two”.

        Or, perhaps, the Marie Ave project was planned with sidewalks, and when they ran out of money at the last minute, that was the first thing to go…

        1. Mike Seim

          The best part is the little office building at 295 Marie has signs on each end of where a sidewalk should be that say Keep Off Grass. They’re box signs, not just a pole in the ground – and they’re internally lighted

            1. Scott Merth

              If you engage streetview at that location in the link, there’s even a guy walking along the median. The pedestrian experience definitely needs to be improved here.

        2. Nathanael

          “I just can’t imagine how they got to the point of building the street that wide without thinking “now might be the time to add a sidewalk or two”.”

          Visit New Jersey. They do this sort of thing all the time there. 😛

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      I grew up in the area: Payless Shoes, Granny Donuts, Ground Round, Chuck E. Cheese, Ember’s, Target (before it was made slightly nicer), Ponderosa Steakhouse. Never walked on the street even once, and I’d bet that most of the wealthier people in the WSP/Eagan/SSP/IGH/MH area never get out of their cars except to cross the parking lots.

      BUT, as the recent stories about poverty in the suburbs are suggesting, most of the affordable housing in WSP is within a mile or so of this corridor, especially to the East. Those people are taking the bus every day. The Mayor of WSP is basically telling them to screw off, comfort and accessibility for them is not worth the tax dollars. That’s really unfortunate.

  4. Nathanael

    I suggest that someone gently remind this mayor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He may be able to avoid railings, but he’s gonna have to build sidewalks, and he’s gonna have to build them to completely modern standards.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Oh don’t worry. There are thousands of consultants and engineers capable of building sidewalks that technically meet ADA standard, yet that nobody (of any level of physical ability) would voluntarily choose to use.

      I have no doubt we’ll get at least 5 ft of concrete with ramps and APS push buttons. But we need trees, benches, and other features that actually make it a dignified experience.

      For an example of how this might look, check out the 6200 and 6300 blocks of Lyndale in Richfield (reconstructed in 2008-ish). They widened the sidewalk a bit, and replaced on-street parking with a bike lane. But the sidewalks are plain, unadorned. The lights are highway-scale cobraheads. There are no trees or grass in the right-of-way, and no shade for pedestrians or cyclists. Fortunately, the more recent streets have been done much better than this, but this kind of bare-minimum design is all too common.

    2. Monte Castleman

      There’s no ADA requirement to build sidewalks. But if they’re built they have to meet certain standards. Can you imagine if every gravel road serving a farm two had to have sidewalks built if they regrade it.

  5. Miah

    Great article. Thanks for writing it. I just wanted to add that myself and many of my neighbors actively and robustly advocated for cycling and pedestrian amenities to be added or upgraded with the so called Robert St “improvement” project since it began in earnest in 2011 with planning stages. We attended all the meetings, contacted our city council members but to no avail. Virtually all of our ideas or concerns ad property owners and residents in the community on or near the road were totally ignored. We wanted bike lanes, sharrows, sidewalks etc so as to create a more pedestrian, cycling friendly, walkable, rideable neighborhood in line with the dense urban village sort of concept. We got nothing, not even a little paint for sharrows or bike lanes eve as costs for the project ballooned from 3 million we were originally told it would cost in 2011 to around 40 million now. My wife and I and all of my neighbors got so sick of it and frustrated with the city and its obfuscation, incompetence and lack of transparency that we all sold our homes near Robert and fled the area. Taxes quadrupling since 2006 while quality of life declining didn’t help either. What a way to drive away good hard working families and people! Watch a WSP city council meeting these days and see for yourself. It is so dysfunctional and uncomfortable to watch. It’s just constant bickering. I moved back to Seattle and live on my sailboat, stuff is in a storage unit, my neighbors all moved to SW Mpls, places where we can ride our bikes everywhere or walk. This was a once in a lifetime chance for West St Paul and they squandered it. The so called “improvement” project was no improvement for us so we were bound to uproot ourselves, disrupt our lives and flee the area once we saw the direction the project was going, basically just more car lanes, more sprawling parking lots for cars and nothing for cyclists or anything meaningful for pedestrians. Yet the Robert Street Improvement project website still has a logo on it showing a cyclist! Oh the gall. This is charlatanism at its finest folks. Keep this in mind anyone wanting to live or do business in the area. Good riddance to West St Paul!

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