Ayd Mill Road: Pothole’d Saint Paul’s Impending Money Pit

Do you want the bad news or the worse news?

The bad news is obvious if you’ve been driving around Saint Paul in the last month or so. I’m sure you’re aware of the potholes.

They are bad! We’re talking potholes as big as poodles, ruts the size of the Twinkie from Ghostbusters. We’re talking about pavement with the integrity of Trump’s White House team.

But again, if you’ve driven in Saint Paul lately, I don’t have to tell you about this because you already know.

That’s the bad news. The worse news is that it’s only going to get worse.

The Grim Five-Year Plan

In my role on the city Transportation Committee, I get to see a bunch of transportation reports and documents, and I recently got a glimpse of the latest update in Saint Paul’s street paving and maintenance budget. Starting a few years ago, the city’s Public Works department began publishing plans that extend five years out in advance, and broadly point to how it is going to spend its money to fix, maintain, and reconstruct city streets.

Five-year budget looks like this! Click to expand, and see tentative plans for spending Saint Paul’s road budget. There are LOTS of pots of money, but even adding them up, the spending falls short.

This was a great development. Previously people trying to plan for transportation discussions in Saint Paul (like myself) had to sort of guess or finagle ideas about what might happen in the future. We might get six months’ notice about a street project, just enough time for folks to get mad about it but not enough time to do proper outreach. So having a tentative five-year plan is a big step forward.

A Saint Paul pothole from my favorite pothole essay a few years ago.

That said, it’s also really depressing. At least if you’re only speculating about what’s going to happen, you can let your imagination run wild and be optimistic. But actually seeing in black-and-white the official city street budgets is a sobering dose of reality, especially given Saint Paul’s already dilapidated streets. Fred Melo pointed all this out in a recent lengthy Pioneer Press article on the topic, which offers a good overview. Here’s the bottom line:

St. Paul’s road-repair funding doesn’t stretch all that far. It covers about eight miles per year out of 850 miles of city streets.

To fix roads, the city uses $12.5 million annually from its capital improvement or street reconstruction bonds and $13 million annually in municipal state aid. The latter, funded by the gas tax, license tab fees and other aspects of the state’s highway user fund, provides more money each year based on a combination of population and need, but road repair costs also go up annually.

The state funds include $9 million for road construction and $4 million for street maintenance, such as mill-and-overlay work, where the top two inches of a street is ground off and new pavement put in its place.

Simply put, Saint Paul is broke and the streets aren’t going to get better.

For example, there are a whole bunch of streets on the West Side where I live that are literally crumbling (e.g. Winifred Street, George Street, Wabasha Street). They do not appear anywhere on the five-year plan. I can only imagine how much worse they will look after at least five (>=5) more freeze-thaw cycles of winter and spring. We’re talking about back-to-gravel territory here.

The cold hard truth is that Saint Paul hasn’t increased city spending on streets for many years, and an annual $15 million does not buy you what it did back in 1997. There’s always the $12 million in state money for more “collector” type streets, but those are also the most heavily used and those dollars are in hot demand. They’re used for the local match for all sorts of county and state projects, and the list is long. Take for example the “terrible twenty” brouhaha that happened a few years ago, and you get the sense of the dire need for those MSA (municipal state aid) dollars

Not only that, but you might have heard about the recent “right-of-way assessment” lawsuit that pulled another $30M out of the city’s general fund, leaving non-profits, schools, and state agencies free from the fiscal responsibility for paying for any street fixes. Politically, it seems to me that the funding vacuum and subsequent tax shift put the kibosh on raising taxes further for street maintenance. Last year’s tax shift was an eye-opening 23% levy increase to make up for the lost revenue, and I doubt there is appetite for raising taxes further.

Into this Grim World Waltzes the Ayd Mill Money Pit

Some of many AMR discussions on Facebook.

In a fiscal situation like this, a city like Saint Paul should be very calculating about where it spends its precious street dollars. That’s why I get upset every time I see proposals to spend millions on a half-baked antiquated freeway to the suburbs.

This year, for the first time in my career as a Planning Commissioner, the 5-year budget plan included a line item for Ayd Mill Road (AMR). An Ayd Mill Road extension to I-94 also appears in the city’s draft Comprehensive Plan, on the “freeway expansion” map.

These items are a terrible waste of money.

First, I fully understand that Ayd Mill Road, a 50s-era concrete limited-access urban freeway, is the most falling apart of the city’s falling apart streets. As neighbors on Facebook groups rightly point out, driving on it these days is atrocious.

To me, the best metaphor for driving on Ayd Mill is how “Red Leader” must have felt when he went into that trench to attack the Death Star.

“I’m goin’ in,” you say to your loved ones as you approach the Ayd Mill exit ramp off I-35.

Then you enter the trench. There are constant bumps and turbulence, as if lasers are shooting at you the whole time. And then someone in a giant black SUV starts riding your tail like Darth Vader, doing their best to get you out of the way.

“Almoooost there,” you say as your steering wheel has a seizure. “Almooost there…”

You grip the wheel, using impossible force to keep your car aimed down the narrow trench.

“Stay on the path to Target…”

[Artists’ rendering of cars traveling down Ayd Mill Road]

Keep in mind that I’ve been using Ayd Mill Road my entire life, and I understand its utility. Even before it was (illegally) “connected” to I-35 in a “test” by Mayor Randy Kelly, it was the fastest way between my mom’s house in Mendota Heights (a wealthy Dakota County suburb) and my dad’s house in Saint Paul’s Lex-Ham neighborhood. I’ve probably been on it thousands of times.

Once the city linked it to the freeway, it was even easier, shaving two or three minutes off the six-mile drive. It’s also a handy shortcut between 94 and 35, helping with Dakota County commutes to Minneapolis.

Remember too that the topic of “what to do with Ayd Mill Road” has been at least as beaten to death as the concrete pavement itself. There were studies and more studies and debates and debates.

In other words, this road is Charlie Brown’s political football, and Ayd Mill Road fatigue is real. It’s set in so completely that if you even utter these three words to a Saint Paul politician, the spark in their eyes will fade and extinguish, their shoulders will slump, and they immediately will turn away in search of more hopeful and pleasant conversation topics like abortion or Palestine.

(“Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!”)

Two maps from the 2040 Draft Comp Plan in direct conflict with each other.

Ayd Mill Road c. 1965.

Given the Ayd Mill Road fatigue, let’s put aside all the debates about the history of Ayd Mill Road, which people use it the most, its impact on Selby Avenue, whether it should be connected to Interstates 94 or 35, and what might happen to surrounding streets if it was closed.

Set all that aside for a moment and focus instead on this key fact:

Ayd Mill Road is “owned” by the city.

That means that either Saint Paul taxpayers are going to have to pay the reconstruction costs all on their own, or else city staff are going to have to lobby hard for an eight-figure grant from the State or the Feds.

I believe either decision would be a mistake, but especially in a budget crunch, spending significant city money on this boondoggle is a huge mistake.

For the record, you can’t “mill and overlay” concrete.

For one thing, the $3 million dollar line item in the city’s five-year budget only scratches the surface of an Ayd Mill reconstruction. I’m no engineer, but I’ve seen enough street reconstruction projects to get a general sense of scale.

Ayd Mill Road, even without a 94 connection, is a two-mile four-lane divided concrete “highway” with at least four on-ramps. The entire existing infrastructure dates from the late 1950s to early 1960s. It’s all falling apart and needs to be totally reconstructed.

How much might that cost?

The best cost “comparison” I could think of was the Phalen Boulevard project, a three-mile limited access below-grade surface street constructed through the East Side in the early 2000s running from near the Capitol to Lake Phalen. Just the construction costs for that project was something like $70M in the late 1990s. In today’s dollars, that’s well over $100 million, and we all know how project budgets manage to grow of their own accords.

Phalen Boulevard budget from 1997.

That number is just a ballpark, but the key point here is that the city’s existing line item —  a massive $3,000,000 — is off by at least an order of magnitude, if not two. That three million dollars represents a quarter of the city’s annual MSA spending.

Keep in mind that this is for just re-building the status quo. An actual I-94 connection, as proposed in the draft comp plan, with all the land acquisition costs, extra onramps, and flyovers, might double this cost. That’s just a guess, but given the complexity, I think it’s fair.

(I’m guessing that just the engineering study to find out how much it would cost to “connect” Ayd Mill Road would be a six-figure price tag.)

There’s a lot more to say on this topic, and if you are curious about this weird old armpit of a freeway and its place in Saint Paul’s past and future, there are lots of articles here on streets.mn or on my blog about it. I’ll surely be writing about this many more times if it keeps threatening to suck up the city’s delicate street maintenance budget like an asphalt rancor monster.

In Conclusion

A two-to-three minute difference: we don’t NEED this obsolete freeway.

The next time you hit a pothole in Saint Paul, imagine what it will be like after 5 or 10 more winters of no maintenance.

Then ask yourself these questions:

Who does Ayd Mill Road serve?

Should Saint Paul spend dozens of millions of city dollars reconstructing a freeway shortcut for folks in wealthy Dakota County suburbs?

Stay tuned for more on this topic, including why getting a big magical grant would go against Saint Paul’s priorities, and what fiscally sound alternatives might look like.

(Let’s just say I’d like to do to Ayd Mill Road what Luke Skywalker did to the Death Star. Just blow it up.)

In the meantime, enjoy the oncoming spring! And may the force be with you.

A vision of the future.

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55 Responses to Ayd Mill Road: Pothole’d Saint Paul’s Impending Money Pit

  1. Monte Castleman March 30, 2018 at 8:40 am #

    Until I see an origin-destination study I’m going to disagree with the notion that most of the traffic on Ayd Mill Road (or for that matter Snelling and the Caribou and Starbucks drive-thrus) is wealthy Dakota County residents. Maybe you can shave off a few minutes going from Mendota Heights to the U, but a more typical commute is say Eagan to downtown Minneapolis, and Ayd Mill isn’t really useful for that compared to Hiawatha Ave or I-35W.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson March 30, 2018 at 9:02 am #

      When I lived on Hague, next to O’Gara’s, the conventional excuses for Ayd Mill Road existing were often that all the congestion was commuters from the south suburbs, and if Ayd Mill wasn’t there for them then they’d all spill onto St. Paul’s local streets and arterials. Without Ayd Mill then Lexington would need to become a six lane monstrosity.

      I don’t doubt the full day’s worth of traffic is mostly locals taking use of the shortcut to drive more often and more times of the day than they could if it weren’t there. But the locals’ perception of rush hour is the traffic that people build opinions on and locals believe rush hour is mostly outsiders cutting through.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 30, 2018 at 9:33 am #

      So the city *did* do an origin destination study back in 2001 or so. This was before the “test connection” enacted by Randy Kelly (See timeline of events: http://tcsidewalks.blogspot.com/2015/01/timeline-of-ayd-mill-road-community-and.html) I even talked to the engineer who did the study, stopping cars on the spiral on-ramp at Jefferson Avenue, asking people where they were going and where they were coming from.

      Back then, the majority of the traffic did have an origin or destination within Saint Paul, but the total volume of traffic has doubled (or just about) since it was “connected” to I-35. I am willing to bet that the majority of that new traffic is from Dakota County.

      All that does not change the main point of my piece. The price tag of this project vastly outweighs any city benefits. Should Saint Paul trade a decade’s worth (or more) of city arterial street maintenance funds for this one small connection?

    • Jeb Rach
      Jeb Rach March 30, 2018 at 9:43 am #

      It’s a decent connection from the northeast Minneapolis and 280/94 warehouse/industrial area to 35E south for workers who live in Dakota County. It’s also a good connection for Midway-area residents to get to Dakota County jobs (for example, it’s a decent amount faster than alternate routes to get to the large USPS sorting facility.)

      I’m guessing very few of these jobs would make someone wealthy, but the traffic on Ayd Mill seems to be through traffic better suited for county or state responsibility than city responsibility. It’s not really serving many St. Paul to St. Paul trips, and it’s not feeding any residents or businesses directly.

      • Monte Castleman March 30, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

        How many jobs are still actually at 280/94 though, and is Ayd Mill Road predominantly traffic from Dakota County to those jobs? I know jobs there were the reason for the never built extension of MN 280 along the Greenway to 7, but are there still a lot of jobs there? No one I know works there, while a lot of people I know work in the downtowns or in suburbia.

  2. Jeb Rach
    Jeb Rach March 30, 2018 at 9:39 am #

    As a Hamline-Midway resident, I like having Ayd Mill Road. It’s a nice shortcut to get to 35E and West 7th, which I do every now and again. However, it really doesn’t seem to serve much St. Paul local traffic when it’s all said and done. There’s a good possibility that most of the traffic has either an origin or a destination in St. Paul, but likely not both. A direct connection to 94 would only reinforce it as a non-local street, probably even more than the current 35E connection does. It seems ridiculous that a connection for Ayd Mill to 94 would ever be the responsibility of the city of St. Paul.

    If there’s truly a need to have Ayd Mill as a link for 94 East > 35E South traffic, then let’s turn the road over to the state as-is and the state can pay to rebuild and maintain the road. If the City just gets a grant for it, they’re still on the hook for all the ongoing maintenance, and as a Saint Paul resident that seems like a poor use of City resources. I’d still be very concerned about what path such an extension to 94 would take, as there’s no obvious path with enough existing ROW space.

    Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t mind personally seeing it repaved, but considering it doesn’t serve anything but automotive traffic (trucks can’t use it to haul goods to market, and I believe bicyclists and pedestrians are banned as well) I would like to either see it opened up for all with any rebuilding work or simply shut it down (maybe make it a really long park area next to the railroad tracks.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 30, 2018 at 9:41 am #

      I don’t think that’s on the table, or if it is, I haven’t ever heard that offer from MnDOT. I also don’t think neighbors (living near the road) would be very happy about it.

      • Jeb Rach
        Jeb Rach March 30, 2018 at 9:47 am #

        I’d imagine neighbors wouldn’t be too happy about it being upgraded to a state-maintained freeway. However, I think that’s the only way forward if it wants to stay as a connector, and it should be the only way St. Paul would even consider allowing it to extend directly to I-94.

        I’m not surprised that it’s not being offered by MnDOT; the cost would likely be high and the state transportation budget isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. I just don’t see it as a city responsibility to maintain and upgrade a road that serves as an expressway for automobiles to pass through the area.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke March 30, 2018 at 9:57 am #

          Well, repaving it somehow is now in the draft budget, and that’s what worries me. It’s fiscal quicksand.

        • Adam Froehlig
          Adam Froehlig April 1, 2018 at 8:38 am #

          Monte beat me to it downthread, but there’s a very simple reason why MnDOT isn’t offering it: a little 1981 law that resulted in Section 161.122 of the state statutes

  3. David Markle
    David Markle March 30, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

    Ayd Mill Road is reasonably useful as is. If officials want to make it into a significant connector between interstate highways, then the city shouldn’t have to provide most of the funds. Apparently the problem is “which officials?”

    I saw a truck and man with shovel putting warm asphalt into potholes on east-west St. Paul streets several days ago: hardly a thorough fix, but still, a pleasant surprise.

    • Jeb Rach
      Jeb Rach March 30, 2018 at 1:14 pm #

      It’s somewhat useful, but is it worth paying the multiple millions of dollars to patch it up for 10-20 years (or the likely tens of millions to redo it completely) for a road that, in at least the examples I could generate, saves 4 minutes? (I did a couple of example locations from near the start of Ayd Mill: O’Gara’s and Hamline/Thomas, to a couple of locations on 35E: the Hy-Vee in Eagan and Joke Joint Comedy Club. There was a 4-minute penalty pretty much across the board; some, but not significant.)

      This road serves no truck traffic at all (they’re banned, and even if we repaired it to the point where it’d be usable for trucks, they couldn’t continue onto I-35E due to the truck restrictions there.) Currently, pedestrians and bicyclists (along with motorized bicycles and other non-motorized traffic) is prohibited from using it. Outside of a couple of homes and businesses right at the Ayd Mill/Selby merge (which could be preserved with some short frontage roads less than a block long) it doesn’t serve any businesses directly.

      I actually forgot this morning that even if Ayd Mill were to become a truck route that it wouldn’t be able to continue through to 35E due to the restrictions there. That’s probably why it’d never become a state road or even a connector; it probably doesn’t make sense to build it solely for automotive traffic.

      If we were at a position of “the road still functionally works, but we don’t like how it’s designed” I’d say keep it in place, because it is an okay connection to have and it seems wasteful to rip something out when it has useful life left. But Ayd Mill is quickly reaching the end of its current useful life, and it’s probably most economically sound for the City to do something else with the ROW than rebuild it as an automotive-only corridor.

      • Monte Castleman March 30, 2018 at 6:00 pm #

        Assuming 4 minutes, Mn/DOT uses $18.30 a person hour as an economic cost due to time lost due to congestion. Assume 20,000 vehicles times 1.2 persons per vehicle times 4 minutes time savings divided by 60 minutes / hour times $18.30, the economic benefit to having Ayd Mill is about $30,000 a day or $11 million a year. So it makes economic sense to reconstruct it for the next 30 years, although the problem is of course travel time cost savings of residents don’t turn into cash for St. Paul to pay for concrete.

        • Daniel Herriges March 31, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

          That kind of congestion-cost math is hardly ever credible. The most defensible way to measure the value of time savings is probably willingness to pay. At $18.30 a person hour, that’s $1.22 for four minutes of time savings. As a thought experiment, how many of the people who currently use Ayd Mill do you think would pay a $1.22 toll each trip to keep using it? I highly doubt very many.

          A recent study described in this City Observatory piece estimates highway users value travel time savings at an average of more like $3 an hour: http://cityobservatory.org/what-hot-lanes-reveal-about-the-value-of-travel-time/

          The math used by agencies like MnDOT typically serves a political purpose: justifying that agency’s funding requests by inflating the estimated ROI of proposed projects.

          • Monte Castleman April 1, 2018 at 7:46 am #

            So it people’s time is only with $3 an hour, why isn’t that the minimum wage?

            • Joseph Totten
              Joseph Totten April 1, 2018 at 11:28 pm #

              If we use 18.30 now, should that be the minimum wage?

              Cost-Benefit Analyses are never right, that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, just that they are nowhere near as straightforward as you presented. And your sarcastic straw man of a response is not helpful to the discussion or your credibility.

              • Bill Lindeke
                Bill Lindeke April 2, 2018 at 7:45 am #

                Note: It’s possible to have a discussion of TTI-style congestion cost savings without getting personal about it.

  4. Tom Quinn March 30, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

    Living in the area, I’ve driven AMR a thousand times and found it a very convenient way to get around the area – until recently. The congestion caused by the new apartment building, Whole Foods, and especially the lack of a right turn lane going north on Snelling has slowed things down to the point where I avoid the corner and have no use for AMR anymore. The new five story apartment over O’Gara’s is just going to make it worse.

    Although I realize it would never happen, my suggestion would be to turn it into a toll road. The neighborhood really doesn’t need AMR and just as well avoid it anyway while the people from the southeast suburbs passing through to Midway and Minneapolis would generally find the toll worthwhile.

    • Jeb Rach
      Jeb Rach March 30, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

      >especially the lack of a right turn lane going north on Snelling

      Unless your destination is within a block of Snelling/Selby, there’s signs that direct people to use Saratoga > Dayton as the path from Ayd Mill to Snelling. (There’s also signs from AMR > Hamline as the route to I-94, and from Snelling > Concordia > Hamline for the southbound movement to AMR.)

      https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9466367,-93.1641686,3a,75y,295.57h,88.84t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1slc_CWhZesCv6A2aWN-Ma_w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

      Living just north of the area, the signed routes are faster (or at least less congested, in my experience.) That might change if everyone used the signed route, but it seems like there’s generally more than enough road space to accomodate most of the traffic between the two signed routes.

      • Tom Quinn March 30, 2018 at 5:43 pm #

        The Saratoga/Dayton turn would work if more people took it, but they don’t. A No Right Turn at Selby and Snelling would force people to turn a block early.

        But many don’t. There is a lot of pedestrian traffic crossing Snelling when Selby has the green light and without a right turn lane on Selby cars waiting to turn right have to wait until the walk clears. There is only one west bound liane so cars wanting to cross Snelling and continue on Selby have to wait too. During heavy times it takes multiple light changes for waiting cars to get through, I’ve seen the line back up nearly to Hamline on AMR at times. And because this line of cars is so long it blocks the right turns on Saratoga/Dayton so even the people wanting to bypass the corner get hung up.

        It’s classic gridlock.

  5. Sean O'Brien March 30, 2018 at 2:26 pm #

    The star wars analogy might be the best bit of reading I’ve done all week.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 30, 2018 at 3:56 pm #

      “How many potholes do you think, rebel leader?”

      “About twenty. Some on the surface, and some on the sides.”

      “Switch to targeting computer.”

      • Sean O'Brien April 2, 2018 at 11:56 am #

        😂

  6. Karen Nelson March 30, 2018 at 2:36 pm #

    Just close it for repairs for a month and see what happens with traffic.

    Also, just Google maps it at peak hours to use the full length of it or work around and quickly see what the.worst impact is on driver that most uses…I’m sure we are talking 5 minutes.

    My spouse travels this road everyday to go from St. Paul (St Anthony Park) to Eagan for work. And she says she doesn’t even use it half the time anymore because it is so messed and all the accidents that occur there in the winter..

    If the whole thing is shut down, no one neighborhood will likely be impacted very adversely. Freeway traffic will just go to 35e. More local traffic will be on Snelling, Hamline, Lex Selby, Summit etc.

    The problem before it’s was connected was it was there.but not connected, so neighborhoods at the ends got hurt. Snebly still gets hurt.

    Shut it all down and no one is greatly hurt, some drivers will have slightly longer but safer commute.

    • Monte Castleman March 30, 2018 at 4:50 pm #

      When it was opened, traffic on Snelling Ave south of Shelby, went substantially down. I think we can assume traffic on Snelling Ave will go way substantially up if it’s closed. Freeway traffic isn’t going to switch to I-35E because it goes in a completely different direction.

  7. Tyler Hamilton March 30, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

    There’s no way we should blow hundreds of millions of dollars to reconstruct and extend Ayd Mill Rd. If anything, this is the perfect time to talk about extending the Midtown Greenway and using Ayd Mill’s ROW easement to actually do it.

    We should use the southbound lanes for the pedestrian and cycling paths (using the on/off ramp ROW for connections to street-level bikeways), while the northbound lanes can be banked for future transit ROW. Less squabbling with the railroad (since we’re not trying to expropriate the ROW they’re currently using) means one less obstacle to achieving something!

    I think the Midtown Greenway coalition is hosting an event April 5th about extending the Greenway into St Paul. (hint hint)

  8. David Markle
    David Markle March 30, 2018 at 4:21 pm #

    Ayd Mill is a great way to get to 494 and I-35 to points south, from the Midway (and reverso). Alternatives are cumbersome and slow.

    Too bad Ramsey County doesn’t have a role in it.

  9. karen March 30, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

    Stupid question – if we spent the money to repair road and connection it – and charged a toll to pay all that off and for maintenance, amortized over, say 40 years – if traffic stayed the same, what would that toll have to be?

    And if we started to charge people for this short cut – how much would the individual drivers be willing to pay to save 5 minutes?

    • Monte Castleman March 30, 2018 at 5:45 pm #

      St. Paul has an AAA rating so they can issue 30 year bonds at about 3%. My guess is fixing Ayd Mill and and building new access ramps to I-94 is likely to cost around $100 million. That means borrowing about $150 million.

      Starting with current traffic volumes that’s about 300 million trips over 40 years, so a 50 cent toll would do it. But you have to think about what effect building a direct connection plus charging a toll would have on traffic volumes. To be sure it would be more attractive to regional traffic with a direct connection, but most people in the metro don’t have a MnPass transponder (although some that wanted to use Ayd Mill might get one) and a lot of people would go back to using Snelling Ave rather than pay the toll. So maybe a dollar or so?

  10. #AydMillForever March 30, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

    Of all the things Bill is wrong about (and he’s wrong about a lot 2018 Ice Castle Picture ), he’s most wrong about Ayd Mill Rd.

    I mean $3 Million is chicken feed. It’s less than the Prior Ave fix right above it! I could drive the $4 Million project with my 5 wood. The last time they resurfaced it they used left over plowing money.

    This is just #BanCars masquerading as fiscal conservation.

    I’d prefer not more cars on Lexington and Randolph thank you very much. I might want to ride in those fancy new bikes on Lexington.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 30, 2018 at 11:20 pm #

      The point is that $3M will not do much here. Far better for the city to spend the money on other streets like Prior.

      • AydMillForever March 31, 2018 at 7:24 pm #

        20K-25K adt vs 4K adt though.

        I’d prefer not adding 10K (at least) to Lexington and Randolph.

        Personal preference obviously.

        $3 Mil every decade until they hand over to the Feds after connecting doesn’t sound like the worst plan ever.

        Real problem is the $22 Million. Need more money from the state. Gas tax. Non-insane house and senate. Better horse traders. I’m open.

  11. andrewupeterson March 31, 2018 at 10:00 am #

    Interstate Auxiliary. Complete rebuild with Federal funds connecting both I-94 and I-35E.

    “…city staff are going to have to lobby hard for an eight-figure grant from the State or the Feds.”

    I am a long-time Saint Paul resident. I regularly use Ayd Mill to get out and about throughout the Metro.

    Putting through traffic on a highway will keep them off the arterial and collector roads, keeping local pedestrian, bicycle and motor vehicle traffic safer.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 31, 2018 at 10:24 am #

      I am not sure how realistic that proposal is. If someone knows more about chasing Federal highway dollars than I do, I’d listen, but my sense is that the city has higher priorities for those kinds of MnDOT asks.

      The point I am making here is that $3M of *city money* that could be spent on our other streets or much-needed public investments is going to be thrown into this project, and that amount doesn’t come close to making a meaningful long-term difference. It’s like a bandaid on an infected leg.

      • Andrew Peterson March 31, 2018 at 11:38 am #

        Thanks for the reasonable response to my comment. I hear your point about City spending. As a St. Paul resident, I’d just like to advocate for what I believe would be a reasonable approach to this problem transportation corridor. As a union leader, I know how difficult it is to get something through Congress or Federal Agencies, even though I don’t know about securing Federal transportation funds.

  12. Monte Castleman March 31, 2018 at 7:29 pm #

    Also, if anyone gets the idea the state might take it over as a trunk highway and pay for it, that’s not going to happen. First of all there’s actually a state law against moving the designation of MN 51 south of University Ave. That could be changed, but another problem is it doesn’t line up with the long term goal of having state maintained highways correspond to principal arterials in the metro. That means the entire length of MN 51 is theoretically a turnback candidate, and MN 51 south of MN 36 was specifically mentioned in a jurisdictional realignment study a few years ago as desirable to turnback, presumably to Ramsey County. Although having the county take Ayd Mill Road now that it’s actually useful to a lot of people might be a discussion to have.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 1, 2018 at 10:54 am #

      Good context Monte. Thanks.

  13. Adam Froehlig
    Adam Froehlig April 1, 2018 at 8:37 am #

    Not mentioned in Bill’s article, Bill’s comments, or the other comments: besides pulling traffic off Snelling south of Selby, opening Ayd Mill to 35E also pulled trucks off Lexington. I’m sure the residents along Lexington would be “more than happy” to have those trucks back if Ayd Mill is closed or otherwise not improved…

    That said, there is a good question why Ramsey County is not involved in these discussions. Though I would hazard a bet that for the county to agree to take Ayd Mill, another existing county route would have to revert back to the city…perhaps Cleveland Ave or Lexington south of 94…

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 1, 2018 at 10:53 am #

      There were trucks on Lexington in significant numbers?

      • Adam Froehlig
        Adam Froehlig April 1, 2018 at 3:00 pm #

        Meant traffic instead of trucks.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke April 1, 2018 at 6:26 pm #

          Sure but they took a lane off Lexington and it also is likely getting disconnected south to West 7th.

    • Tom Quinn April 1, 2018 at 11:15 am #

      Lexington is a parkway and trucks are not allowed in any case.

      • Monte Castleman April 1, 2018 at 1:06 pm #

        I get the idea that law was followed about as much as the 45 mph speed limit on the I-35E parkway is.

        • Tom Quinn April 1, 2018 at 1:52 pm #

          I live a block and a half off Lexington, just south of Grand and doubt I’ve seen more than a dozen trucks in 30 years.

  14. Jeb Rach
    Jeb Rach April 1, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

    Ayd Mill isn’t a truck route (at least anymore) with numerous signs stating as such. 35E also can’t carry trucks that far north (they have to exit by West 7th.) I’m not sure how Ayd Mill, or the connection to 35E, would change truck traffic unless trucks are illegally using 35E and Ayd Mill.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig April 1, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

      I was under the impression that trucks were allowed up 35E to Ayd Mill when the connection was opened. I’ll need to double-check my 35E research but I’m pretty sure I recall hearing that was the case.

  15. Cathy April 3, 2018 at 10:06 am #

    I live in St. Paul and use Ayd Mill to get up to Grand and Selby from W 7th. I also travel 35E to Eagan a lot. My observation is that most of the Ayd Mill traffic is coming from or going to 35 E. A lot of the time Ayd Mill isn’t very busy. I’m with the author on abandoning maintenance by St. Paul. I can get around the city fine without it. Let the state pay for it as a connector of 35E to 94 in Minneapolis.

    • Tom Quinn April 3, 2018 at 10:10 am #

      I agree with Cathy. The more I’ve thought about this the more I think the best strategy is for St. Paul to simply let AMR deteriorate. Locals won’t mind so much and people passing through will either find an alternate or pressure someone other than St. Paul to fix the road.

      Pot holes can be traffic calming.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 3, 2018 at 10:15 am #

      Thanks Cathy. I use it too!

      The point is that Saint Paul budget has some tough trade-offs. It’s useful, sure, but *how* useful? Is it worth deferring paving and maintenance on a whole bunch of other streets in city? That’s the choice we have to make.

  16. GlowBoy April 5, 2018 at 11:21 am #

    No kidding that things are bad in St. Paul. I saw an article recently where a St. Paul official was defending the pothole situation there, saying it’s normal for things to be this way after a “real” winter and every municipality is struggling to stay on top of patching the holes.

    But I call BS. St. Paul is noticeably worse than Minneapolis or the suburbs I visit. Which just cost me several hundred dollars, by the way: a few weeks ago we hit a not-visible hole on Shepard Road just west of 35E, causing us TWO flat tires and a bent wheel. Although we have road hazard coverage on the tires, it’s prorated based on their life, and when you add in the replacement wheel we were still out a considerable amount. Not going to try to recover our money from St. Paul or anything, but it is frustrating that they’ve let things get this bad. Shepard is in horrible shape all the way from MN-5 to 35E, and unfortunately is just one on a list of streets we now avoid completely.

    • GlowBoy April 5, 2018 at 11:29 am #

      And just to circle this back around to AYM: although it can be a very convenient shortcut, extending or expanding it in this environment is sheer madness, even if it make sense financially to do that so they can get the state to kick in money.

    • Tom Quinn April 5, 2018 at 11:46 am #

      I agree with you totally. There is no excuse for the horrible conditions in St. Paul. The potholes and street rubble are everywhere and make it treacherous whether you drive a car or ride a bike.

      No doubt our newly minted Chief Resiliency and Chief Innovation Officers are working on the problem.

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