Five Reasons Saint Paul Should Not Spend $3,569,917 to Repave Ayd Mill Road

Ayd Mill Road Trucks 1965

Ayd Mill Road when it was a brand-new truck route in 1965.

The Saint Paul Public Works “five-year plan” (PW 5-Year Plan) received a not-so-subtle edit this year, moving $3.569,917 dollars slotted for the mill and overlay of Ayd Mill Road in 2021 up to this year, re-paving the city’s most controversial four-lane third rail. To me, the decision runs counter to Saint Paul’s stated transportation, environmental, and equity goals, and represents literally entrenched, out-of-date thinking, a sunk cost sinking farther, good money thrown after bad.

So, yeah.

In case you hadn’t heard, Ayd Mill Road is Saint Paul’s most controversial piece of pavement. The aborted freeway has a long pockmarked history of being an infrastructural albatross, bête noir, whipping boy, straw man, and rhetorical cudgel. For generations, the road has put holes into the city’s maintenance budget, divided the neighborhood literally and figuratively, all while funneling lots of suburban traffic onto and off of neighborhood streets. The “short line” freeway has been litigated, railroaded, debated, and studied through fifty years of Saint Paul history, and I have personally chronicled its saga many times, spending countless hours thinking and arguing about it. Feel free to read as much of that history as interests you.

That long impasse is probably the reason that here in 2019, just like the “test connection” of the road back in 2002, the decision to spend $3.5 million to pave the 1.5-mile-long trench was made quickly with almost no public discussion. Maintaining the road is expensive — $250K last year — and the city claims that the city bonds for street maintenance money could not have been spent in any other way. In other words, without this paving item, “the money would just not be spent,” as Council President Brendmoen stated during the 20-minute conversation at the City Council last week

I’m personally skeptical that, given the poor state of the city’s local and arterial streets, Public Works could not find any other projects that would have better served the people of Saint Paul. But the decision has been made, the vote was 5-2, and there’s not much to do now but beat the dead concrete horse by talking about exactly why spending this money in this way is missed opportunity for Saint Paul.

With that in mind, buckle up and prepare for a bumpy long-read. Here are five reasons why spending millions re-paving Ayd Mill Road is a mistake.

Happy Earth Day.

1. It’s a short-term fix

Stp Victoria St Pothole DayThe mill and overlay is not a long-term solution to keeping Ayd Mill Road in good condition. I’m not a freeway engineer, but I’ve sure read a lot about the topic of urban roads. From what I understand, the lifespan and effectiveness of a mill and overlay depends an a few factors. In the best-case scenario, a mill and overlay might add 15 years to the life of a street. In the worst case, the lifespan of the new asphalt might be closer to eight years.

That range depends chiefly on the condition of the surface below the asphalt roadway, where the older or less stable the foundation, the shorter the life of the asphalt. The problem is that, like many streets throughout the city of Saint Paul, Ayd Mill Road is fundamentally old; in this case, the foundation is 1962 concrete built atop an existing creekbed. That’s hardly encouraging.

9b

The Ayd Mill valley in 1923.

I’d love to know more about the exact condition of the road’s foundation, to better guess what the life expectancy of the new pavement would be. Apparently the city contracted out an engineering study of the road structure (though I have not seen it), but my rough guess is that ten years from now Saint Paul will be right back where we are today, forced to make a decision.

Spending $3,569,917 for pavement that lasts a decade averages out to $350K per year, which is still a significant expense. The life expectancy poses the question: Why not make a decision about the road’s future today, and use the money either for a long-term fix or a better alternative?

2. It Erodes the Fundamental Infrastructure Budget

I’ve been bicycling around Saint Paul a lot lately, and the obstacle course required to avoid potholes has been steadily increasing in difficulty. Pockmarked and disintegrating streets are everywhere, in every neighborhood, on routes big and small. Last night I got a flat tire (again!) after hitting an especially sharp chasm between concrete road segments on Cliff Road.  Anyone who bikes or drives in Saint Paul knows the streets are in rough shape.

Yet maintaining old roads in bad condition is significantly more expensive than maintaining newer roads in fair condition, and because Saint Paul is strapped for street maintenance cash, each year we’re falling farther behind on upkeep. There are lots of reasons for the slip in funding, including the city’s high percentage of non-taxable land, the recent loss of the street fee lawsuit, and aging infrastructure in general. But another reason is that we’ve been poaching from the reconstruction budget over the years.

Screen Shot 2019 03 29 At 12.48.27 Pm

Screen Shot 2019 03 29 At 12.49.34 Pm

 

Screen Shot 2019 04 23 At 11.32.15 Am

Citywide pavement condition in 2013. (Red is bad.) It has gotten worse since then.

 

 

 

Pothole Victoria Street West End

Victoria Street in the West End as of two weeks ago.

The money that’ll be used to re-pave Ayd Mill Road is a good example of the problem. Here the city is taking dollars slated for full street reconstructions (a long-term investment) and using them for a surface mill and overlay (a short-term fix). This shift has been happening for years. For example, when Mayor Coleman declared an emergency back in 2014 about the so-called “Terrible Twenty”, it shifted the city’s street maintenance budget away from the Residential Street Vitality Program (RSVP) that systematically reconstructs city streets. The headline-grabbing trade-off moved money away from long-term solutions and toward short-term fixes. It’s like making the minimum payment on a credit card, instead of paying off the debt.

We’re doing it again here with Ayd Mill Road. At the Council Meeting, it was stated that this was the only possible way to spend the bonded dollars, because any other reconstructions or other mill and overlays would have required public notification, design decisions, or unavailable city staff time.

To me, these claims are not very convincing, but regardless, the lack of alternatives suggests either a shortage of preparation or creativity. Without public discussion, it’s difficult to know more. For example, during the Council Meeting, Council Member Noecker asked a question about whether the city was studying design alternatives. Director Lantry’s answer was confusing, suggesting that there are four alternative design proposals being studied, some of which involve pedestrian and bicycle access. (As an aside, this seems expensive and unlikely to me, and I would bet solid money that no changes to the four-lane freeway’s cross-section will be made.)

At any rate, the seeming lack of alternative uses for the city’s street bonds is an unfortunate sign for the future, because Saint Paul’s maintenance needs are only growing. We’re not spending enough to keep the city streets in the affordable part of the maintenance cycle. Without more money put toward reconstructions, the city budget will fall further into a rut of expensive repairs as we superficially repave streets laid atop crumbling foundations full of streetcar rails and century-old bricks. This leads to a maintenance spiral of increasing costs and worsening roads that is hard to escape.

Not good!

3. Induced Demand is a Thing

The most common argument in favor of keeping Ayd Mill Road is that “it takes traffic off Lexington and Snelling.” It’s a sentiment expressed succinctly by Council Member Tolbert in the Pioneer Press, where he said that “everyone who is now on Ayd Mill was cutting through Lexington.” I’ve heard this a lot over the years.

Yet traffic does not work in this simplistic way. There’s not a “fixed” amount of cars that will travel along the Ayd Mill Road corridor, so that if you close it, they simply move to the next closest street. Drivers are constantly shifting their choices in space and time. We behave a lot like Google Maps, and when faced with congestion or detours, we search for alternatives, create new travel patterns, and weigh the need for the trip. It’s called “induced demand,” and there’s a lot of research that shows how marginal, malleable, and flexible our driving behavior can be.

Ayd Mill Options

Alternatives for Ayd Mill add or subtract only a few minutes most of the time.

(Furthermore, Lexington, Snelling, and Randolph are all county roads paid for with regional county-level funding, while Highways 5, 62, and 55 are state roads paid for with state-level dollars. The one Ayd Mill Road claim that everyone agrees on is that is a regional road should not be funded from the city budget. So why not move traffic to regionally-funded streets?)

Finally, changing or closing Ayd Mill Road would not mean turning Lexington back into a dangerous four-lane arterial. The problem with Lexington in the 1990s was its dangerous design, not that it was full of traffic. Today the street is safer, and though Lexington backs up for blocks every day during rush hour, the safety or quality of life difference with a little more traffic would be marginal.

Meanwhile, Ramsey County has begun to prioritize safety over regional traffic speeds on many of its roads, changing deadly four-lane designs roads to safer more walkable streets. They’ve even done it in places like Maryland Avenue, with higher traffic volumes than Lexington would ever see.

As Alex says, “road safety comes from good road design.” In other words, you design the street you want, and traffic predictions should not dictate your project. We’ve made a lot of progress since the 1960s, or so I thought…

 

4. Climate Change Demands Action

Saint Paul has had a goal of taking meaningful action on climate change for what seems like forever. Our street budget should reflect that goal, and it’s clear that spending lots of money to maintain an urban freeway encourages more driving, catalyzes suburban sprawl, and incentivizes single-occupant commuting. Heck, even back in the 1990s, people studying Ayd Mill Road floated the idea that if we “connected” the road to I-35E, it should be for carpool drivers only. Weirdly, this is an example where Saint Paul is less progressive on climate action today then we were 30 years ago.

Amr Co2 Timeline

Co2 Scenarios Amr

Arrow points to 2029.

Maintaining the status quo on Ayd Mill Road takes us farther from our stated goals. Page through the draft Climate Action & Resilience Plan just released this spring and it states repeatedly that we should reduce the city’s per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 2.5% per year. Doing so, the plan states, is going to require “a concerted set of actions.”

If we delayed this project for even one year, maybe we could have a real discussion about its future with the Climate Action Plan in place.

Ten years from now, what will our global CO2 levels be?

430 parts per million? 450?

 

5. Equity

It’s a fact that a significant percentage of the people who drive on Ayd Mill Road are going to or from wealthy Dakota County, either to shop, to work, or to cut through Saint Paul altogether. Ayd Mill Road connects directly to Mendota Heights, where I went to High School, a city that is 90% white with a median household income of $107,000 (all paired with low property taxes). To the south, Eagan (75% white; $84K) is much the same. These are wealthy suburban cities with wealthy school districts where affordable housing is restricted by the zoning code and other policies.

Mendota Heights Income

Income stats for Mendota Heights.

Meanwhile, Dakota County has almost single-handedly undermined the region’s transit planning, making it all but impossible to design a good transit connection from Saint Paul to the south, down Robert Street or elsewhere.

With some preparation or foresight, Saint Paul could have used this city bonding money to reconstruct or repave its city streets in city neighborhoods. With a little work, we might have moved up any number of projects on the five-year-long list (PW 5-Year Plan), including Fairview, Grand, Earl Street, Front Street, Arlington Avenue, or a half dozen others. As I write this, the street in front of my apartment — which was once on the five-year plan, but has since disappeared — currently has 2” holes in the pavement surface. Wabasha Street, down the block, is in terrible shape, and there are a hundred similar streets in the East Side, the North End, Frogtown, or the West Side that badly need the money.

If that’s not an anti-equity decision, I don’t know what is.

Conclusion: There was another way

Stp Ayd Mill Closed

Ayd Mill Road has been closed before.

Read the long history of Ayd Mill Road, you see that time and again task forces, elected officials, and community groups have called for something to be done differently.  If it wasn’t for Mayor Randy Kelly, who connected Ayd Mill Road two years before he endorsed George W. Bush, Saint Paul would not have this problem today. I’d bet we’d already have decommissioned or reduced the street by now.

That long history begs the question: Why not implement an anti-Kelly year-long “test closure” and see what happens? Why not delay the expensive re-paving, adopt the Climate Action & Resilience Plan, and figure out how to spend the money? Why not try any of the plans or ideas that have been floated over the decades?

Granted, I wouldn’t wish another Ayd Mill Road Task Force on anyone, but it’s a fun thought experiment.

If the Saint Paul could have found another use for the $3.5M in 2019 street bonding money, and closed Ayd Mill Road for a year, here’s what I think would have happened…

  • Joe Soucheray would write a mean column.
  • People would complain about traffic, as they always do.
  • Miles of other roads in Saint Paul, in neighborhoods that need it, would be repaved or reconstructed.
  • 40% of the Ayd Mill Road traffic, primarily the regional trips, would move to other grade-separated alternatives.
  • At least 10% of the trips would simply “disappear.” (See also: examples from other cities.)
  • Congestion would get worse on nearby streets like Lexington and Randolph. I’d guess it’d be a 10-15% increase, but because these streets were re-designed to be safer than they were in the 1990s, it wouldn’t be a huge deal.
  • The city would save a minimum of $250K in annual ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Neighborhoods around Ayd Mill Road would be more peaceful and safer, especially at Selby and Snelling, a spot where pedestrian activity is increasing exponentially.
  • People would talk and brainstorm about what to do with the land. Maybe some great ideas would arise from the conversation, maybe there would be a lot of shouting. But with a projected $50M price tag attached to a long-term freeway solution (or double that for a I-94 connection), the conversation would be more realistic than it has been in the past.
  • Saint Paul would make headlines and gain national attention for living out its climate action and equity values.

Sadly, it’s all just traffic under the freeway bridge now. None of that will happen until 2030, when we’ll be right back where we are now, only with everyone older, the city budget worse off, and with much more CO2 in the atmosphere.

Ayd Mill Potholes

To me, the most frustrating thing about this project is that it was solely a city decision. There are lots of times in my years working on Saint Paul transportation issues where a frustrating compromise is reached. And usually, its someone else’s fault.

“We’d like to change that road,” you say to yourself, “but it’s a county decision, and county folks still have outdated policies.” 

Or, when facing another on-ramp turn lane or a lack of bumpouts, you admit, ”well, this is a MnDOT project, and this is the best they can do.”

Or, when approving hundreds of expensive, traffic-inducing parking spaces, you say to yourself “well the developer and the banks demand this, and nothing will happen without it.”

This project is different. There are no other governments, agencies, or actors — it’s strictly Saint Paul officials and staff spending $3.5 million on a short-term-fix for an out-of-date freeway. Each year that goes by, it’ll be more obvious that spending this money was a mistake, another sad chapter in the saga of obsolete concrete.

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42 Responses to Five Reasons Saint Paul Should Not Spend $3,569,917 to Repave Ayd Mill Road

  1. Barbara Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 12:10 pm #

    Thank you, Bill, for your well thought out and researched article about this old issue. Roseville has been doing the complete rebuilding and replacement of its streets in an organized way and I must say I can tell the difference when I cross over into St. Paul. Patchwork doesn’t last. I hope the City Council will reconsider this waste of money. Good luck.

    • Dan Wagner April 23, 2019 at 4:25 pm #

      My wife commutes from Como Park neighborhood to her work in Eagan. Taking Lexington or Hamline avenues would really add to her commute time. The stoplights at Selby, Grand, Marshall, St. Clair and Randolph Avenues are over congested already.

      • Mike Sonn
        Mike Sonn April 25, 2019 at 11:02 am #

        I know I don’t drive often, but even during peak rush hour, I’d say the only intersection that really sucks on either one of those streets is Hamline & Selby and it’s bcs the city won’t 4-3 Hamline so you have lots of turning movements and drivers get aggressive on their lane changing.

      • Stuart Munson May 10, 2019 at 12:40 pm #

        I don’t know precisely where you live, but according to google maps, and an arbitrarily selected spot in the como park neighborhood, taking Ayd Mill saves literally no time on a morning commute to Eagan.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke May 10, 2019 at 3:52 pm #

          Correct. A mostly useless road.

  2. Monte Castleman April 23, 2019 at 12:42 pm #

    Do you have any data that most of the people using Ayd Mill Road are in fact trying to go from Mendota Heights to downtown Minneapolis? Despite them being woefully under-built for the people they needs to serve I’d still use Hiawatha Ave or I-35W over Ayd Mill if I were making the trip.

    Ultimately since Ayd Mill is a better alternative for people passing through the neighborhood than surface streets, we need to have a conversation about making state or county responsible, maybe in exchange for Snelling, although that would require a state law to be change.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 12:45 pm #

      Nobody has that data, I am guessing. It’s a non-zero number, probably greater than 10 and less than 40.

      • Monte Castleman April 23, 2019 at 12:49 pm #

        An origin / destination study would be rather interesting.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 1:42 pm #

          They did one in 2002 back when the “test connection” was done. In those days, the road had something like 12K ADT, and IIRC the study found 40% non-local traffic, or something like that. But that number that has doubled today, and I doubt that a majority of the new trips are Saint Paul-only.

          Even if it’s people driving to Eagan to go work or go shopping, how is that good for the city?

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 12:47 pm #

    Another fun angle: The Saint Paul street budget is currently allocating $1.5 million to reconstruct the Summit Avenue bridge over Ayd Mill Road. If we had a consensus about decommissioning or reducing that road in place, we might be able to tweak the bridge design to add a staircase or connection to the bike lanes or sidewalks that would link the valley with the community. https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/public-works/bridge-division/summit-bridge

    • Ariel April 26, 2019 at 9:00 am #

      oh my! The need for comprehensive planning is so clear in this case. Thanks Bill for shining some much needed light on all of this!

  4. Mike Sonn
    Mike Sonn April 23, 2019 at 12:49 pm #

    Thank you, Bill. This was an extremely disappointing decision made by the city. Much like the Terrible Twenty that you mention, it feels like the city is trying to preempt changing the status quo by moving up work to avoid public engagement (the T20 was done just before the bike plan was passed an many of those major roads were due for bike infra). Also speaking of the T20, Hamline is already trash again after <5 years. M&Os are getting less and less effective.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 2:07 pm #

      I would like to go look at Hamline and see for myself sometime.

  5. Dan Marshall
    Dan Marshall April 23, 2019 at 1:37 pm #

    If we’d only taken a Strong Towns approach to this issue. In what way will spending $$$$ fixing AMR help grow StP’s tax base? Which businesses will benefit from increased access?

    The only people who will benefit are those who have business in the suburbs.

    A city’s infrastructure is an investment that show grow the community and the tax base. Clearly, AMR doesn’t do that at all. We should disinvest ourselves of it.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 2:06 pm #

      I agree. Invest in downtown or in local commercial streets like Grand Avenue. Organize the city budget around supporting these local businesses and growing the city’s tax base. Instead, AMR funnels economic activity to Dakota County.

    • J April 23, 2019 at 4:31 pm #

      Yes, thank you.

      Strangely enough, the enemies of urbanism and smart infrastructure decisions often tend to espouse, at least rhetorically, fiscal conservatism.

      We do well to explain the overwhelming financial wisdom behind our proposals when the Soucherays naysay.

      Get the unproductive roads off our balance sheet, and make sure anything we build or maintain is going to earn its freaking keep. (And earn, as you mentioned, for the benefit of the taxpayers who foot the bill).

    • Jeffrey Klein April 23, 2019 at 6:37 pm #

      The advance of the strong towns lens in this instance is that it reminds you why it would be stupid to solve the problem as “repave, but with bike lanes and solar panels”.

      • Dan Marshall
        Dan Marshall April 23, 2019 at 7:07 pm #

        So disconnect it and make it a boulevard lined with condos and apartments. Down in the trench they won’t cast shadows on people’s yards. Add a bike path –> instant Greenway. It can be a productive road if we choose.

        • Jeffrey Klein April 23, 2019 at 7:44 pm #

          Sorry I was unclear, I was trying to say that the Strong Towns way of looking at this problem is valuable because it would be tempting to consider keeping multiple car lanes while sprinkling on “green” things to justify it, when the stupid road should clearly be removed.

          • J April 24, 2019 at 12:29 pm #

            Well Jeffrey, I agree it shouldn’t exist as a road on the City of St. Paul’s balance sheet, but I’d potentially support funding bike infrastructure and/or some type of linear park provided the costs were aligned with how valuable it was to the city.

            • Jeffrey Klein April 24, 2019 at 1:39 pm #

              I agree. I’m clearly doing a shit job of communicating and I’m also arguing against a vague strawman that’s only been suggested in passing (in this particular instance but it happens all the time – an urban freeway with extra features). What I’m trying to say is remove the road, replace it with a bike path.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 11:55 pm #

          I actually like that idea.

  6. Andrew Evans April 23, 2019 at 1:44 pm #

    They either need to complete the road and make a connection with the freeway, or really do something else with it. The way it is now really doesn’t do anyone any good, and sure, it does offer a connection from 35E to Mpls, but really only to those who can’t take 62 to 55. The only time I’ve ever wanted to use it was visiting a friends house in South St. Paul, and even then it wouldn’t have been a huge deal to take 55 and 62, then up 7th or whatever that road is that leads up to Downtown St. Paul. Working in Mendota Heights I’ve never wanted to or thought of taking that way home, and even if I did it would lead into 94, which isn’t great for commuting anyway.

  7. James Hamilton April 23, 2019 at 2:01 pm #

    The principal issue here is not whether Ayd Mill should be repaired or improved but whether it should exist and, if so, in what capacity. I’m among those who believe it should be rebuilt from the ground up and extended so as to connect to I-94 between Hamline and Snelling. As part of that effort, the county and/or state should assume responsibility for the roadway, which currently serves as Minnesota’s longest on an off ramps to an interstate highway.

    A mill and overlay is not even a holding action at this point and will be a complete waste of money whichever way we go with this issue. We either will tear it out for good or tear it out to replace.

    One comment on the “induced demand” argument: the Short Line aka Ayd Mill Rd. has been with us for decades. Once it was connected to I-35E, it absorbed a great deal of traffic. That traffic was not for the most part optional, in my view. Even if one were to sever that connection, traffic would continue to roll through the western half of St. Paul simply because there is no reasonable alternative for those who do so. So long as St. Paul lies in the most direct and fastest route between A and B, they will continue to cross it. It makes no sense to me to divert this traffic to city streets, be that Lexington, Hamline, Snelling, Randolph, Jefferson, or St. Clair. They all arrive or originate at one of four connections to I-94: Dale, Lexington, Snelling, or Cretin-Vandalia.

    Eliminating Ayd Mill won’t eliminate the traffic, even if we provide a direct connection to I-94 west of downtown. Whichever way we go, it’s time to get it done.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 2:05 pm #

      I agree that the mill and overlay is a waste of money, and I hope you see here how little of that the city has to spare.

      Thought experiment: without a huge funding source to pay for any of this, what do you think we should do? Sacrifice local streets for this marginal regional connection? That’s what we’re doing now.

      I believe that eliminating AMR will eliminate some traffic, and re-direct some of it, and some of it will go to nearby county or state arterials. We can design those streets to be safe and well maintained, and it’d be paid for much more equitably than what is happening today.

      • James Hamilton April 25, 2019 at 3:22 pm #

        That’s an interesting but unlikely condition you’ve placed on your question, given Ayd Mill’s role as an adjunct to the interstate system.

        From my perspective, we would sacrifice far fewer local streets with a direct connection to I-94 west of Hamline than we do currently.

        Until we have a competent study of origins and destinations, all either of us can offer is guesswork based on our own observations and other anecdotal information. If your perspective pans out, I’m fine with closing AMR.

        Has MNDOT ever taken a position on AMR’s future, to you knowledge? Ramsey County?

  8. Kate Baxter-Kauf April 23, 2019 at 2:18 pm #

    This was a really interesting and well written article. Thanks, Bill. One question I always have: how much of Ayd Mill’s justification is really in having a way to get around Grand and/or Summit for the marathon or Grand Old Day? That’s the only time I really think of the street as actually necessary for driving in and out of Mac Groveland/Highland Park, and given the fact that the Summit Bridge work is being completed – explicitly – in between this year’s marathon and next, I wonder how much that influences the city.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 23, 2019 at 2:25 pm #

      Not sure. It would be a shame to spend this much money in order to plan for two days out of the year.

      • Kate Baxter-Kauf April 23, 2019 at 2:27 pm #

        Exactly! There are a ton of much cheaper and better fixes.

    • Dan Marshall
      Dan Marshall April 23, 2019 at 6:57 pm #

      Grand Old Day problem solved.

  9. Darren Tobolt April 23, 2019 at 3:55 pm #

    I agree Bill. This terrible decision will haunt us for years. Resurfacing without redesigning is putting lipstick on a pig. I use Ayd Mill and think it is a great corridor connecting two great neighborhoods. I have always dreamed that it could be redesigned as a parkway with a great bike and pedestrian facilities and much lower speed limits. It could be both a linear park and a vital connection with grade separated crossings relieving nearby neighborhood streets. The dream dies when we spend millions of dollars on a band aid for the status quo that no one particularity likes.

  10. Lisa Freese April 24, 2019 at 5:34 am #

    If the road is left open it clearly needs to be fixed. I live in St. Paul and use this road in the summer to get to my son’s ball games. It probably needs a bigger fix than what is proposed. Most of collector and arterial St Paul’s roads are in poor condition. Pavement management has been woefully underfunded over the years. The one thing you got right was the city is in a viscous cycle and the overlay program they have been using will not make gains in the probable.

    I also live off Maryland Ave and must drive it daily. Conditions are much more dangerous since the road diet. People constantly use the center turn lane as a passing lane. It’s only a matter of time before some really bad happens.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 24, 2019 at 9:10 am #

      There are design fixes for that.

    • Jeffrey Klein April 24, 2019 at 1:41 pm #

      Data overwhelmingly supports that road dieted streets are much safer. I suspect you’re keenly aware of the faults of the new street configuration and you’re comparing it to ideal instead of the insanely unsafe status quo.

  11. Margaret Fleming April 24, 2019 at 9:59 am #

    Detailed and smart article – thank you! If only we could aim high and at least attempt to emulate truly great cities. Every time I cross Ayd Mill I imagine various versions of beautifully landscaped bike and pedestrian paths, creative, well designed family spaces featuring innovative, educational art-inspired playgrounds, sculpture, water features, public gardens, winter appeal, and space for outdoor concerts and gatherings. So, yes, “talking and brainstorming about what to do with the land” with emphasis on St. Paul’s potential to lead on meaningful actions re. climate change ought to have been the priority from the start. Brilliant idea to shut it down and observe the actual consequences. Obviously, we shouldn’t forgo enhancing the livability and beauty of our space to enable auto addicted suburbanites.

  12. Stephan April 24, 2019 at 10:16 am #

    St. Paul should consider some kind of congestion pricing plan for Ayd Mill Road, similar to the kind used in London to limit the number of drivers in the city center during business hours. It would require some infrastructure to set up: cameras to read the license plates of passing vehicles and cross-reference them against a database of users who have paid the fee. But once operational, it would likely decrease travel along the roadway and increase funding for its maintenance.

    Users with cars registered in St. Paul could be asked to pay a nominal fee to receive a travel pass, while drivers from outside of the city and county could be asked to pay more. There’s no reason St. Paul should be subsidizing suburban commuters.

    As is the case elsewhere, the system could be set up to allow drivers to buy monthly or annual passes, and for drivers using it only a single time to pay the required fee within 24 hours.

    • Brian April 24, 2019 at 4:39 pm #

      If you toll only one road almost nobody will use it. Drivers will just use all the surrounding alternate routes.

  13. Ted April 24, 2019 at 11:57 am #

    Well written article. St Paul has a rich history of poor transportation policy, which is not likely to change in the near future. How to avoid flat bike tires: the double tire system. Take an old tire, preferably narrower than what you are using, and cut off the bead; you will need a wire cutters to make the cut through the metal or Kevlar bead; use a good scissors to trim off the bead, going around in circle on both sides of the tire. Discard the bead (some bike shops may recycle them with used tires), and take the bead-less tire, which folds easily, now narrower than the primary tire, and place it inside your primary tire; install the tube, mount the tire on the wheel. This allows you to run lower pressure without getting a pinch flat, and prolongs the life of the tire, as there is another tire inside (less the bead). It weighs more, yes, but if you are riding, and not racing, who cares? I started using double tires 16 years ago, after fixing a flat at 4 F, which is unpleasant. You can take your tires right down to the cords, with the peace of mind of another tire to save you. In my experience, this works better than heavy-duty tires, sealants, tire liners, or puncture-proof tubes. Cheaper, too.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 24, 2019 at 2:44 pm #

      Ooof, too much work for me.

  14. Sam Adams April 25, 2019 at 12:53 pm #

    It’s a creek bed. Why isn’t it a creek? This metro area has a sad history of abusing, disrespecting and literally paving over its greatest natural gift: its running water.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 25, 2019 at 1:57 pm #

      S’ok with me! A park with a creek in it… They did this in Seoul, South Korea… Granted that is a much bigger city than Saint Paul.

      https://grist.org/infrastructure/2011-04-04-seoul-korea-tears-down-an-urban-highway-life-goes-on/

      • Sam Adams April 25, 2019 at 7:53 pm #

        Sounds like they had a similar experience with their waterways to Minneapolis and St Paul (cf. Bassett Creek, Phalen Creek), and indeed many other cities in the bad old days of rapid expansion and poorly planned development. First the stream became a sewer, then they buried the sewer. Now it’s come back full circle. Ayd Mill Road would be a great place for an urban creek and bike trails.

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