Newly painted (and completely reconstructed) Montreal Avenue and Ford Parkway are now open. Both roads incorporate ways to keep the roads more safe, and inviting, especially to our neighbors who are outside of a car. There were a few improvements to be desired, but I must commend the City of Saint Paul and Ramsey County on improving what was there, and at least moving in the right direction.
Middle of the Road
Ford Parkway used to be all bituminous asphalt from curb to curb, but now there is a small median separating traffic lanes.* This is good because it reduces the amount of roadway drivers see in front of them and because the center lane before was entirely unused. The median and especially the ongoing landscaping and trees add left-hand “obstructions” to drivers, a visual cue on the left-hand side as well as the right. The median itself will prevent head-on collisions, but will also (hopefully) slow traffic a little and provide a safe refuge for mid-block crossings.
Both of these projects added bike lanes to their streets. Both seemed rather spacious and welcoming. Ford Parkway’s bike lanes are already getting good use, as the warmth stuck with us until November, and on this ride I had several passing bicyclists going up and down Ford, or connecting to Fairview Avenue to access the rest of Saint Paul’s bicycling network. Montreal Avenue had a few bikers in its lane, but I assume this will get more use when school lets out, as it is directly next to three schools. One area where the streets differed was in how they handled right hand turns with the bike lanes. Ford Parkway is seen below.
Ford Parkway uses the entire bike lane and parking lane as a right turn lane at the intersection. Volumes probably warrant it, but it seems awkward for neighbors in cars who might want to turn right on red if they’re queued behind a neighbor on a bike going straight.
All in all, the bike lanes are a good improvement, as they are connecting destinations like the Highland Village, day cares, other businesses, parks, and schools to Fairview Avenue and the existing bike route network.
Lots of “Catwalks”
Ford has many day cares and preschools along its length, but one had a really cool idea. Instead of having kids walk over snowbanks, or shoveling dirt, or having everyone pull up to the one sidewalk to load and unload small children, they had several catwalks connecting the sidewalk to the street.
This same thing can be seen on Montreal Avenue, by the Highland Park Middle (and High School, GO SCOTS!) but the catwalks are spread much further apart as this is a school bus loading zone instead of one for parents’ cars.
Intersections on both streets got great bumpouts and the crosswalks look great highlighted in the new paint, but there is one glaring difference in how the midblock crossings were treated. First let’s look at Ford Parkway.
This crosswalk is just outside of the daycare shown earlier with its catwalks. There is no parking allowed by the crosswalk or even behind it. This stands in contrast to Montreal Avenue.
These curb extensions provide traffic calming, reduce pedestrian exposure to vehicle traffic, and don’t allow for drivers to stand or park in the areas where it would block driver’s sight-lines to pedestrians. Adding these extensions to more reconstruction projects would be an easy improvement to add traffic calming and enhance safety with few to no negative effects for drivers.
These reconstruction projects were definitely an improvement for Ford Parkway and Montreal Avenue, and for the fact that I didn’t really engage in the public process beforehand…I can’t really complain that one piece of low hanging fruit (politically) was missed. But these types of improvements, while somewhat boring, are good steps for Saint Paul to take to slow some traffic on high traffic roadways and provide some good bicycling connections.
*The median is not complete, as trees and other landscaping is still taking place, so I neglected documentation and taking pictures.