More Livable Streets at Snelling Midway

I want express my excitement surrounding the site plan for the Snelling-Midway Redevelopment. The density, return of the street grid, and mixed-use will be an asset to St. Paul for years to come. However, I need to express some concerns about the right-of-way widths at the proposed development.
snelling soccer Site ROW

Proposed land use for the Snelling/University mega-block.

Soccer Stadium ROW widths

Extra wide rights-of-way will encourage speeding through traffic, exactly what we should be discouraging.

As shown above, the proposed rights-of-way for internal street compose more than 25% of the site. From what I’ve heard the team owners say, most of this will be convertible roads that can be closed to cars on game or event days. Closing streets to traffic is a great feature, but I don’t understand the need for 90 feet of right-of-way, even if 30 feet of that is dedicated to sidewalks.
Renderings from the team.

Renderings from the team.

MN United 90' ROW

What 90′ could possibly look like when implemented.

As shown above, 60 feet curb-to-curb gives lane dimensions that encourage fast driving. I understand these are conceptual drawings, which is why I reached out to the city asking them to take the lead and reduce our current and future financial burden while making this site safer for all road users. I emailed several elected officials and received responses that the City of St. Paul is aware of my concerns and that these drawings are indeed conceptual.
This also feeds into financing. If we need to use tax-increment financing (TIF) to finance infrastructure, let’s do it from a fiscally prudent position. Moving forward, these roads will need to be maintained, so let’s work to keep that cost to a minimum. Also, narrowing the right-of-way will allow more developable land, providing more housing, office, and retail space (and tax base) in the heart of the Twin Cities metro instead of more roadways dedicated to cars. And more to this point, since there will be ample parking in structures, these streets should be for moving people and goods, not storing private automobiles.
MN United 70' ROW rendering

8′ parking lanes next to 12′ travel lanes, no bike infrastructure

MN United 70' ROW

The proposal with lane widths shown.

Finally, as co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, I feel the city should be building protected cycle tracks through this site. We are starting with a blank slate so let’s raise the bar and make cycling and walking the safest it can be.
MN United 70' ROW ideal

What the 70′ ROW should look like if we’re serious about biking and walking safely around the stadium.

Again, I am extremely excited for the future of Snelling/Midway and completely understand this is a high level conceptual plan at this point. This site plan will set the tone for planning at the Ford Site, where density will be key. However, I’m concerned about the current car-centric land use of Highland Park and how wide rights-of-way could be co-opted to further entrench automobile usage there.
Let’s strive to make St. Paul even more livable. It starts with our streets.

23 thoughts on “More Livable Streets at Snelling Midway

  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    4 driving lanes should be met with a hard, “no.” 12 foot lanes should be met with a hard, “no.” Those things shouldn’t even make it into a conceptual sketch.

    1. Mike SonnMike Sonn Post author

      To be fair, I’m implying those widths based on their given dimensions and shown uses. But those are pretty standard lane widths for St Paul road projects. 6′ bike lanes being the exception, they are usually 5′ but I doubt they’d put in 13′ driving lanes.

  2. Matthew

    This is literally the plan the devil would draw up to bankrupt the city of St. Paul. Why waste any money at all on internal streets?

    Those streets are much too wide to be comfortable, even if they were closed to cars.

    Here’s a little known fact: this development is NEXT TO a light rail station. Where is the pedestrian-only ‘paseo’ leading diagonally from the station to the town center?

    It says so much that the light rail station is not even show on the plans.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      Bringing back the street grid is and was one of Saint Paul’s #1 goals in redeveloping this site, even before the stadium was an idea in anyone’s head. It’s about creating smaller walkable blocks

      1. Matthew

        But how do you feel about the two north south streets that don’t actually connect to any street grid (the grid is interrupted by the light rail on the north, and I-94 on the south)?

          1. Matthew

            So it would make more sense for the new street across from Simpson to be pedestrian only, right? Cheaper to build, much cheaper to maintain, far more consistent with the projects location next to two major transit corridors.

      2. Joshua Mades

        As the former streetcar busbarn site, there never was a grid there to begin with (see historical aerial photos: Don’t get me wrong, I think implementing a grid here is a great idea– but if we talk about “Mending” (Master Plan, pg. 16) the grid/ bringing it back/ restoring it, I don’t think that portrays the site’s history accurately.

      3. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

        Regarding “bringing back the street grid”, It should be noted that this area never had a street grid in the old days. It was industrial land long before residential development…a rail spur off the Merriam Park Subdivision provided rail access.

        “Expanding the street grid” would be a more appropriate statement.

      4. Julia

        I totally agree that creating smaller walkable blocks is great & vital for a human scale city. Why not set precedent for connecting the grid through walkable small blocks w/out every single dang space being literally car-centric/car-centered?

        Seems strange that car-free or car-lite streets in this space would be the rare exception, rather the norm.

    2. Matthew

      Looking more closely at the original drawings, the plan is very good.

      It’s actually just the “streetmix” street sections that are horrible. Partly because they show only the widest sections of the street, where there is on-street parking. But this is quite misleading, because the plan shows curb bulb-outs at most corners.

      1. Mike SonnMike Sonn Post author

        I took the given cross sections and added lane details and widths using streetmix. I’m not sure how that is misleading.

        Also, I said several times that I acknowledge that these plans are conceptual.

        1. Matthew

          The misleading-ness is in the original cross-sections.

          For most of the streets in the plan, the bulb-outs occupy a significant fraction of the street, so showing cross-sections only thru the parking spots is misleading. Also, they probably should never have been called “parking lanes”.

          Both these problems were present in the original cross-sections. So obviously this is not Mike’s fault. I correct my statement to read “It’s actually just the street cross-sections that are horrible”.

          I believe cross-sections at the corner would be more representative of the pedestrian experience.

          If cross-sections were shown at the corners (where bulb-outs narrow the street significantly), the original plan might appear more pedestrian-friendly than the conceptual bike-lane plan.

          I do very much appreciate the fact that Mike corrected the sidewalk portion of the diagram. The original plan was definitely inaccurate in including trees in the sidewalk width.

  3. Matthew

    This project is located at the intersection of two prime transit corridors. It should be targeted at non car owners. All those wide roads and free parking are an iron-clad inducement to car ownership. As planned, this project is geared towards drivers, and will certainly create vehicular congestion on the neighboring streets.

    Eliminate the surface parking. Eliminate the roads.

    If a TOD development cannot be built at the intersection of the Green Line and a BRT, then Minnesota should just give up.

    Marketing this location at drivers instead of non car owners is a direct violation of every principle of urban planning. It is a slap in the face.

    This is what the project should look like:

  4. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    Widths is one issue. Paving ought to be another. I think Dr. McGuire has mentioned this, but I’d like to see the same paving used on the street and the widewalk, with no curb if possible.

  5. Monte Castleman

    Two 10′ lanes per street? Aren’t semi-trucks going to make deliveries to the businesses? Aren’t buses going to drop people off at the stadium? Do we want to tolerate traffic backing up all the way onto Snelling or University if a person driving a car stops in a through lane to make a left turn?

    1. Mike SonnMike Sonn Post author

      They could easily be 11′, but these aren’t thru-streets so we should be engineering slow speeds. My concepts of the concept is completely conceptual as well.

  6. Phil

    One nitpick: You show the protected bike lanes in your final image to be bollard protected. Newly constructed protected bikeways should NEVER use bollards. Curb or planter separation should be the go-to in new builds, not ugly bollards.

    1. Matthew

      This is probably a limitation of StreetMix. I also noticed that the StreetMix cross-sections show sidewalk curbs, while the “hand-drawn” sections show no curb. The verbage of the proposal also implies no curbs, so the type and placement of bollards will be particularly critical.

    2. Mike SonnMike Sonn Post author

      Yeah, that was just a limitation of StreetMix. I could’ve dug a bit or did some photoshop but the ideal wasn’t the point of the post, it was more to point out that we were given no where close to ideal on these proposals. We need to ask for the best, and then settle – not start w/ settling for standard car-first planning right out of the gate.

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