Pennsylvania Jackson Intersection After

Pennsylvania Avenue Revisited

With the news that the City of St. Paul will dedicate half of Ayd Mill Road as a dedicated bicycle / pedestrian path, it is time to revisit Pennsylvania Avenue, which is located just north of the Capitol campus and Regions Hospital. 

These two roads are similar in several ways

40mph Speed Sign 45mph speed limit sign

Speed Limit:

  • Ayd Mill speed limit is 45 mph
  • Pennsylvania speed limit is 40mph

Traffic Volumes:

  • Ayd Mill Road traffic ranges between 15-24K ADT. 
  • Pennsylvania traffic ranges between 14-15K ADT.

Traffic Lanes:

  • Ayd Mill typically has four 13’ lanes (plus a shoulder on the west side)
  • Pennsylvania typically has four 13’ lanes


  • Ayd Mill is about 1.5 miles
  • Pennsylvania is just under 1 mile

Limited Access:

  • Both roads have very little access, few intersections/ramps

Commercial Connections:

  • Ayd Mill connects with major commercial corridors, such as Grand and Selby
  • Pennsylvania connects with major commercial corridors, such as Rice Street and Payne Ave (as an extension of Phalen Blvd), as well as industrial/employment centers

Connections to distantly possible future bikeways:

Ayd Mill, Bike Plan

On the St. Paul Bicycle Plan Ayd Mill Road was planned as an off-street path that would connect in the distant future to a Greenway extension over the Mississippi River.

Pennsylvania, Bike Plan

Likewise, Pennsylvania Boulevard was planned as an off-street path that would connect with a non-existent road to Piece Butler.

There are a couple of differences

Bicycle Connections

  • Pennsylvania would provide key connectivity between existing bikeways on Phalen Blvd, Jackson Street, Park Street, and nearby Como Ave. It would also connect directly with the Gateway Trail.

Pennsylvania Bike Connections

  • Ayd Mill, on the other hand is close but doesn’t quite make it to Summit or Marshall. I hope it will connect directly with Jefferson

Ayd Mill Bike Connections

Different Jurisdictions:

  • Ayd Mill Road is a St. Paul “street”
  • Pennsylvania is a Ramsey County Highway (CSAH 33)

Where to put bikes on Pennsylvania?

In a previous article I proposed taking one lane from either direction of Pennsylvania to create bikeways. The downside to this proposal is that in both directions there would be some hazardous stretches where cars are entering or exiting Pennsylvania onto Jackson Street.

Two alternatives present themselves:

  • Using the southern two lanes for bicycles and pedestrians just like Ayd Mill Road
  • Using only the southernmost car lane for bicycles

Using the south side of the roadway makes the most sense because it avoids the access points to the Railroad Museum and the Empire Drive business area. The only access points that are of concern would then be the Jackson Street ramps.

If we reduced car lanes to the northernmost lanes we could avoid the Jackson Street ramp conflicts altogether, and the existing ramps on the south side would be excellent and safe access points for bicyclists and pedestrians. What we would need to do is reshape the existing Jackson Street ramps on the north. The most functional way to do this would be to create a perpendicular intersection with an east-bound left turn lane on Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania and Jackson Intersection Before

Pennsylvania and Jackson Intersection Before

Pennsylvania Jackson Intersection After

Pennsylvania and Jackson Intersection After

The ramp would probably need to be widened a bit. The other ramp (marked with a red X) could be removed for efficiency or retained because we love having more pavement to maintain. Between the two ramps this design could be tweaked any number of ways, but it’s shown as one possible solution.

Where are the best bikeways being built?

It is in some ways an accident of geography and various historical factors that leads us to having wide, uninterrupted roadways next to railroad tracks or having abandoned railroad tracks ready to be repurposed. We can’t create these opportunities in just any neighborhood of the city. However, to continue the comparison between Ayd Mill Road and Pennsylvania Boulevard, let’s look at the parts of the city where these opportunities do exist.

ACP50s, Pennsylvania, AMR

This map shows the parts of St. Paul defined as ACP50s by the Metropolitan Council. In short, these areas have at least 40% of household incomes at or below 185% of the poverty level AND where 50% or more of the residents are people of color.
(Zoom in to the photo above or click the link for more details)

Clearly, Pennsylvania exists in an ACP50 area and AMR does not. The only point I’d like to make here is that if we as a city are willing to invest in and develop such a great bicycle / pedestrian path in a wealthier, whiter part of town, shouldn’t we capitalize on a similar opportunity in a part of town that looks different and has been historically underserved?

What do you think?

  • Do you think there are clear reasons why this is a good idea for AMR but not for Pennsylvania Ave?
  • Would it be better to take both south lanes for bikes/peds, only the southmost lane or instead one lane from the north and one from the south like the earlier proposal?
  • Where else in St. Paul should we be looking at this treatment?
Eric Saathoff

About Eric Saathoff

Eric Saathoff is a public school teacher living in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul. He is a regular walker, cyclist, transit user, and driver with his wife and three young children. Eric serves on the Payne-Phalen Community Council and the St Paul Transportation Committee.