The Case for an Ayd Mill Bike and Pedestrian Trail

Ayd Mill Greenway

Several years back, I wrote about the history of what’s now called Ayd Mill Road and the efforts to turn it into a linear park. Ayd Mill is one of the most studied and debated pieces of roadway in Minnesota history. When the road first opened in 1965, there wasn’t anything to connect it to. At the south end, Interstate 35E wouldn’t open until the mid 1980s and wouldn’t reach downtown until 1990. At the north end, Interstate 94 between Minneapolis and Saint Paul wouldn’t be completed until 1968. So, for 35 years, neither end of Ayd Mill Road was connected to a highway and the road had very little traffic.

When I-35E was completed in 1990, the pressure to connect Ayd Mill Road at both ends started to grow. During the 1990s, MnDOT and the Saint Paul Public Works Department pushed connecting it as a way to reduce traffic on Lexington Avenue and various other city streets. Ironically, it was traffic that MnDOT itself had created with the building of I-35E.

Several community groups opposed any connection and wanted Ayd Mill Road made into a linear park. Former mayor Norm Coleman convened an Ayd Mill Task Force that included representatives from various parts of the city to examine the road and make recommendations on what to do with it. A 4-lane connected highway, a 2-lane connected highway, no connections, and a linear park were among the options considered. After much deliberation, the committee chose a linear park as its preferred alternative. But Coleman and the Saint Paul Planning Commission ignored the Task Force recommendation and initiated the drafting of a flawed Environmental Impact Statement (E.I.S.) that was entirely based on traffic counts. It recommended a 4-lane highway, connected to interstates at both ends as its preferred alternative. This angered park proponents and many of the people who’d participated in the Task Force and its associated public process. Partly in response, the Saint Paul City Council passed a resolution in 2000 supporting a 2-lane connection, which some viewed as a “compromise.” The Council reaffirmed this resolution in 2009. Unfortunately, under the subsequent mayor, Randy Kelly (2002-2006), the flawed E.I.S. was completed and Kelly unilaterally connected the south end of Ayd Mill Road to I-35E in October, 2002. It was ostensibly a “test”, but the test became permanent in 2003. Kelly also attempted to ram through a 4-lane highway off the north end to connect to I-94, but this attempt failed due to public opposition and a lack of funding.

The road sat, as is, for 17 years, connected at the south end but unconnected at the north. Its concrete, now over 50 years old, has gradually deteriorated, requiring increasing amounts of annual maintenance.

Mayor Carter’s Proposal

In the beginning of this year, the Saint Paul Public Works Department proposed to spend $3.5 million to repave Ayd Mill Road. Various groups including the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition asked the city to consider using this opportunity to convert part of the road to a bicycle and pedestrian trail. The city listened. In his annual budget address in August, Mayor Melvin Carter proposed converting the eastern two lanes of Ayd Mill Road into a bicycle and pedestrian trail and using just the western two lanes for motor vehicles. The proposal would essentially make Ayd Mill into a 2-lane road on the west side with an adjacent linear park on the east. The mayor budgeted an extra $1.7 million to study how to implement the proposal. Most of the extra money would come from funds already dedicated for bikeways.

The proposal was framed partly as a cost cutting measure. The city of Saint Paul spends $250,000 per year to plow, fix potholes and otherwise maintain Ayd Mill Road. Reducing the road to two motor vehicle lanes would save the city money because bicycle and pedestrian trails get much less wear than motor vehicle roadways.

While it’s used by some local residents, the bulk of Ayd Mill Road’s traffic comes during rush hours and consists of drivers who are trying to cut through Saint Paul between the southeastern suburbs and Minneapolis. As such, Saint Paul taxpayers are paying for a road that largely benefits Minneapolis or suburban residents who use it to cut through our city. The mayor’s proposal was the first time (in my memory) that someone in city government actually acknowledged this and questioned it.

A third of Saint Paul’s property is either government-owned or belongs to non-profits and thus pays no property taxes. Since the Minnesota Supreme Court struck down the city’s special assessments of non-profits, the city is now over $20 million in the hole with deferred street maintenance that exceeds $22 million per year. So any street or road lane that can be removed from city maintenance rolls is a good thing.

Other Arguments in Favor

Aside from the financial arguments mentioned by the mayor, the city had plans for a multi-use trail along Ayd Mill Road going back to the early 2000s. The trail was envisioned as part of a Midtown Greenway Extension, across the river from Minneapolis and down the Canadian Pacific rail line to Jefferson Avenue where it would connect to the I-35E “Little Bohemia” trail into Downtown, Shepard Road, the Mississippi River Trail, and parts of the West 7th neighborhood. Along the way, it would also provide much needed connections to the Midway neighborhood and Allianz Field (via St Anthony Avenue) and several other city bikeways on Pelham, Cleveland, Prior, Marshall and Summit Avenues. Such a trail was part of the city’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan and it is now part of the Saint Paul Bicycle Plan, Ramsey County’s Bike and Pedestrian Plan, and numerous District Council and area plans. Extending the Midtown Greenway into Saint Paul is one of the most popular ideas among city cyclists. When I table at bicycle events for the Bike Coalition, the number one question I get is: “When are you going to extend the Greenway into Saint Paul?”

In the last two years, a large partnership of groups that include the Midtown Greenway Coalition and the Sierra Club are trying to revive talks around extending the Greenway. Together, they crowd-funded an engineering study of the Short Line Bridge across the Mississippi River, a linchpin for making an extension, and they’ve been pitching the proposed extension to county commissioners and elected officials on both sides of the river. Making a bike and pedestrian trail along Ayd Mill would be a down payment on a Greenway Extension and would show Hennepin County and other parties that the city of Saint Paul is serious about wanting a trail and implementing its stated plans.

Even by itself, an Ayd Mill trail would provide an important recreational path in an area of the city that lacks continuous non-motorized pathways. This is particularly true given all the new apartment buildings going up around the north end of the road at Selby and Snelling Avenues. Hemmed in by Snelling Avenue, I-94 and the CP Rail line, new residents here have nowhere to run, walk dogs or ride bikes. Some currently run or walk along the railway line even though it is dangerous and probably illegal.

A few critics of the mayor’s proposal say we could put a trail on the railroad’s land but the city tried to negotiate this for almost a decade and failed. Then it tried to take some railroad land in 2009 via eminent domain, only to have the taking dismissed on a motion to a federal statute that bars cities, counties and states from such takings. So the only option for building an Ayd Mill trail is to put it on city property– a.k.a. the existing road.

If Ayd Mill Road was made more “street-like” with lower speeds and a multi use path and plantings along side it, it would be a more pleasant place and the city might be able to add some residential housing or retail development in places along the west side of the road, particularly near Summit, Grand and Saint Clair Avenues. Such development would generate sale revenues for the city and annual property tax revenue. The corridor could become a revenue generator for the city instead of an expenditure that largely benefits suburbanites.

From a climate change and environmental perspective, the original plan to convert Ayd Mill to a major connector highway is completely unsustainable. As I discussed in a previous post, we cannot keep adding highway lanes and increasing vehicle miles traveled and hope to reduce our state or national carbon emissions. At some point we have to say “no more roads” …and that time is now.

The Opponents

In 2004, when former mayor Randy Kelly was unsuccessful at connecting the north end of Ayd Mill to I-94, MnDOT commissioned a report from University of Minnesota researchers entitled “Increasing the Value of Public Involvement in Transportation Project Planning”. A more accurate and descriptive title for the report would have been “Why We Didn’t Get the Highway We Wanted, and How to Better Manipulate Public Opinion in the Future.” The report is a case study of Ayd Mill Road, comparing it to a more “successful” MnDOT project. It reads like an old 1950s planning treatise where highway planners know what’s best for the community and just need to do a better job of managing the public process to get what they want.

As part of its recent proposal to widen Interstate 94, the MET Council and MnDOT also completed a “Phase 1” study that, among other things, proposes connecting the north end of Ayd Mill Road to I-94. Following the recommendations of the earlier 2004 UMN report, MnDOT kept public meetings and feedback to a minimum. They had just one poorly publicized pop-up meeting in a parking lot on the corner of Marshall and Snelling Avenues and one open house. Even then, half the respondents opposed any connection to I-94.

Do MnDOT and some engineers at the MET Council oppose Mayor Carter’s Ayd Mill Proposal? At least one e-mail I obtained from a data practices request suggests they do. Are they lobbying against it? The agency and its contractors spend money lobbying for or against particular projects. If nothing else, the 2004 report and current “Rethinking I-94 Phase 1” report show that MnDOT and some at the MET Council are paying attention to Ayd Mill Road and want it to become a major, 4-lane connector highway. To what degree they are acting on that desire is hard to say.

Besides Joe Soucheray who’s spent his life promoting cars and “garage logic”, one of the most vocal local opponents of the mayor’s proposal is a woman named Lisa Raduenz. She’s quoted by the Star Tribune, and Fox 9, and she’s a prolific critic of the proposal on neighborhood chat groups including Facebook and Nextdoor. She’s a professional transportation consultant who runs her own firm, LJR Consulting, and has worked for Iteris, MnDOT, the MET Council and UMN, primarily on bus fleets, transit, park-and-ride and safety of MnDOT road workers. She also worked on the aforementioned 2004 UMN Ayd Mill Report commissioned by MnDOT and is acknowledged in the report on page four. I asked her twice on social media if she’s being paid for her activism on Ayd Mill Road and, if so, by whom. She refused to answer.

In the Fox 9 piece, she criticized the safety of the mayor’s proposal saying “Even if it’s a protected bikeway with a barrier in between, it’s still not safe when traffic is going past it at high speeds.” Yet, in other places she’s discussed exactly how to keep road workers (a.k.a. “pedestrians”) safe using concrete jersey barriers, guardrails and flexible barriers– all of which could easily be employed for an Ayd Mill multi-use trail. Beyond that and random smears of bicyclists and the Mayor’s staff, she and other critics have focused their opposition on traffic counts. They claim that reducing Ayd Mill to two lanes will unbearably increase commuter traffic on Lexington Avenue or other city streets.

Although Ayd Mill Road is currently 2-lanes in each direction, cars are forced to merge down to one lane at both ends– to get onto Selby Avenue and (at the south end) to get onto I-35E. During rush hours, this merging causes backups (see photo below). A 2-lane road would eliminate this merging and might make the road function more efficiently.

Regardless, arguing about traffic counts is based on the false idea that we can build our way out of traffic congestion with more highways and highway lanes. In fact, financially, environmentally and even from 100 years of engineering and road-building history, this is impossible. If critics are really concerned about traffic on Lexington, they could eliminate the I-35E highway exits at Randolph or put in diverters on Randolph or at other places to make it more difficult for commuters to use Lexington or other city streets as a cut-through between I-35E and I-94.

This is what engineers call a “road diet”, where traffic is constrained or reduced at its point of entry to alleviate congestion inside the street grid. None of the critics of the mayor’s proposal even consider this or other options. They just want to build more highways and it’s their very insistence on highway access that enables suburban commuters to flood our streets. University Avenue is just two blocks away from a 6 and 8-lane highway but the highway hasn’t stopped it from being filled with cut-thru traffic during rush hours. More highway lanes don’t fix congestion. They just make it worse.

I find it sad that, in 2019, the only solution that MnDOT or some traffic engineers can propose to reduce traffic congestion on city streets is more highway lanes. I find it even sadder that so many people keep believing these “experts” and regurgitate their failed solutions in the press and on social media.

Ayd Mill Merging

cars merging from two lanes down to one at the south end of Ayd Mill Road

Conclusion

Mayor Carter’s Ayd Mill Road proposal is a good one and it deserves our support.

  • It acknowledges that city taxpayers are subsidizing suburban drivers.
  • It offers a way to reduce our infrastructure maintenance costs.
  • It delivers on promises of a 2-lane road by the city council in their 2000 and 2009 resolutions.
  • It offers at least a partial linear park in the form of a multi-use trail in an area of the city that needs one.
  • The proposed trail is in numerous county, city and neighborhood plans and could connect to a Midtown Greenway Extension.
  • Through small areas of housing or retail development, it offers the possibility of transforming the Ayd Mill corridor into a revenue generator for the city instead of an expense.
  • It is in line with the city’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

The city just began a year-long project to replace the Summit Avenue Bridge over Ayd Mill. This will require closures of two lanes of Ayd Mill Road for extended periods of time and, despite all the hyperbole by critics, the sky won’t cave in. Drivers and residents will adjust.

Some critics, including a couple City Council members claim that we need to study the road more, but this is the most studied road in Minnesota. It’s time to act and deliver on past promises. We can have a debate, study and public process about how to implement the mayor’s proposal but not whether we’re going to implement it. We already have all the facts, council resolutions, studies, plans and data we need. It’s time to act.

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41 Responses to The Case for an Ayd Mill Bike and Pedestrian Trail

  1. Elizabeth Larey November 8, 2019 at 9:06 am #

    I don’t understand why having it be a highway adds more vehicle miles. As I see it, it relieves pressure on city streets. There’s more pollution coming from cars sitting at intersections than driving on a thoroughfare. I’d rather see less traffic on city streets. It would be nice to have protected bike lanes, agree on that

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller November 8, 2019 at 9:35 am #

      When it’s quick and easy to drive, people drive more. Heck, you have repeatedly told us how you don’t go to downtown Minneapolis anymore because it’s too hard to drive and park. That’s a reduction in vehicle miles travelled.

      • Elizabeth Larey November 8, 2019 at 1:59 pm #

        downtown mpls is an outlier in this discussion. That is a parking issue for me, not a driving issue. As a single female, I’m not parking in ramps after dark. I’m not sure why you don’t understand that Adam. I do go to restaurants with valet parking downtown. This route will relieve traffic on 35E and Lexington Ave. As always, just my 02

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke November 8, 2019 at 10:08 am #

      Traffic is not static, but responds to conditions.

  2. Peter Engel November 8, 2019 at 9:36 am #

    I wish the City would address the following before heading done this path.

    First, If the railroad won’t cede property along Ayd Mill for a bike/pedestrian path and eminent domain isn’t an option, why do the bike proponents/The City think that the railroads will cooperate with any extension of the Greenway? The land necessary from East River Road to Ayd for a Greenway extension is all railroad property. This impediment will wind up creating an Ayd Mill bike path to and from nowhere just as the original Ayd Mill ( The Short Line) Road did in 1965.

    Second The City acknowledges a $20 million dollar annual short-fall in road maintenance budgeting. Why we would spend an additional $3.8 million on bike infrastructure ( per the CIty’s Public Works Director) on this bikeway? City leadership acknowledges the proposed 2020 budget does not have the $3.8 million allocated for this use. And while bike lanes don’t require the same maintenance as roadways, they do need to be plowed, swept. So there will be costs.

    Third, and more importantly has anyone addressed the safety of this path? With the pathways on the east side of the roadway, bikers and pedestrians will need to cross a major highway at grade to access St Clair, Grand and Hamline Avenues. Yes there are stop lights, but we all know how bikers and cars observe those. I am a biker and the thought of all those car commuters hurrying down Ayd Mill and trying to cross the highway makes for an area I would avoid.

    Finally, the most popular bikeway in Saint Paul is Summit Avenue. There is no access to Summit from Ayd Mill. The new Summit bridge construction is underway and no access is planned. Why build a bikeway that doesn’t connect to Summit? Again its like the shortcomings of the original Ayd Mill. it didn’t connect to anything important. Let’s spend the money on repaving Summit. Motorists and bicyclists would both be better off with a smoother Summit Avenue.

    If sometime in the future, the railroad grants access to right of way from River Road to Ayd, then the bikeway can be completed correctly. For now, leave it two lanes.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke November 8, 2019 at 10:14 am #
      1. One difference is that the Greenway bridge is used by only one customer, and probably not for much longer at that. The railroad has already offered it to Hennepin County for sale before. The “short line” RR here along Ayd Mill is a much different situation, as this spur is used quite a bit, and might be used more heavily in the future.

      2. The $3.8M is not “for the bikeway.” As you probably know, repaving as-is would cost over $3.5M as well. (https://streets.mn/2019/04/23/five-reasons-saint-paul-should-not-spend-3569917-to-repave-ayd-mill-road/) And that’s only the short-term costs. One reason the bike and ped trail is a cost benefit to the city is that it takes the highest-cost maintenance off the books. The mill and overlay repaving is not going to last more than ten years. At some point the road will need to be reconstructed, and that will be ten times the cost. By reducing the road now, we are saving Saint Paul taxpayers tens fo millions of dollars in the future.

      3. Connecting to Summit would be a great idea! Repaving Summit is a good idea too, especially if we can improve safety on the bike route while we do so. I do believe a mile-long section of it is due for reconstruction in a year or so.

      • Steve Subera November 10, 2019 at 11:47 am #

        Minimizing the cost of Ayd Mill road is a good example by the city of identifying a customer (taxpayer) need and one that I think most people would agree with. Where people might disagree are with the solutions. You could make maintenance less expensive by eliminating Ayd Mill or by not including bike and pedestrian access. These are examples, not my personal choices. Minimizing cost has to be balanced with other needs that have been identified like minimizing car trips, etc.

        Which leads me to another customer (St. Paul resident) need: minimizing cut-through traffic on all neighborhood streets including Ayd Mill. I don’t think minimizing suburban commuter time should be on the list of needs when considering Ayd Mill. I hope most of us living in the area would agree that minimizing cut-through traffic is important although we might not necessarily agree on the specific solution.

        Unfortunately, from what I’ve read I don’t think the city is invested in addressing minimizing cut-through. I can’t find the information, but I thought I saw a comment by Kathy Lantry that the city wasn’t planning to monitor traffic patterns when Ayd Mill becomes two lanes during the Summit Bridge construction. I think she said it wouldn’t yield valid data, but I don’t have that information in front of me. (This is where Bill, Ayd Mill savant, points to the information:)

        I think the city needs to explain carefully thought-out scenarios of traffic patterns that could result from a two lane solution before it is put into place.

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer November 8, 2019 at 12:50 pm #

      Connecting to Summit is a great idea and should be part of the debate about how we do this. The signalized intersections will be as safe as any others in the Twin Cities. Folks will only have to cross 2 lanes of traffic as opposed to 4 or 5 like they do on Snelling, University or many other 4-lane death roads in our city. Additional measures can be taken to make the crossings even safer— high visibility crosswalks, signage, etc— and, with just two lanes, traffic should move a bit slower. As Bill said, the stretch of CP Rail across the river serves just one remaining client, was offered to Hennepin County in the past and could either be negotiated or (at some point) abandoned. I did an earlier post on this.

      • Paul L Nelson November 8, 2019 at 4:49 pm #

        I think that connection of the Ayd Mill Greenway could be connected to Summit via a couple of ramps without crossing the MV traffic lanes on Ayd Mill. Some careful measuring and engineering would need to be done. It looks very doable to me.

  3. Dan O November 8, 2019 at 11:52 am #

    The suburban commuter use of Ayd Mill always has me wondering why there isn’t a 35E N -> 94 W interchange. Does anyone know the history of this? I’ve always been curious.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson November 8, 2019 at 12:34 pm #

      It was deliberately excluded in order to prevent too much traffic using 35e south of the Cathedral. That neighborhood fought 35e for decades, only being approved with a 45mph speed limit and no access from 94 to the west to 35e to the south.

  4. karen alane Nelson November 8, 2019 at 1:54 pm #

    This times 1000:

    “If Ayd Mill Road was made more “street-like” with lower speeds and a multi use path and plantings along side it, it would be a more pleasant place and the city might be able to add some residential housing or retail development in places along the west side of the road, particularly near Summit, Grand and Saint Clair Avenues. Such development would generate sale revenues for the city and annual property tax revenue. The corridor could become a revenue generator for the city instead of an expenditure that largely benefits suburbanites.”

    I seriously think the best possible thing the City could do is get some planners, designers, graphics people to put a vision together for this space, it could be made into an economic engine, especially if Midtown Greenway Extension happens also. Look at development along existing greenway.

    I used to live near Snelling and Summit and the whole area around AMR is seriously lacking in park space, trails and biking options, so it is perfect place for the city to add trail space, so many neighbors along that route would really benefit from this.

    The city should be able to find spaces along this to open up for development. Ideally the city would retain the land and lease it out to developers to build residential and retail and begin funding a virtuous cycle of more interest, demand, more money for park-type amenities, landscaping etc.

    This bikeway along with connection Midtown Greenway and Dowtown St. Paul, river paths etc could become a development corridor for appealing medium density buildings that will not be bothering any existing SFHs above.

    I preferred making it totally into linear park but there is good to find in this plan that still puts cars going through there, and we can get 80 percent of the public green space/park/trail benefit also

    And to keep the road from ruining this trail/park appeal, just treat it like parkway, make car lanes 25 mph with good safe barriers, as mentioned in article.

    Even concrete jersey type barriers can be appealing, iconic, if, say, they become mural canvases, and we have some fun with them, let local artists, school kids do their thing,and there are many other options.

    We could close the road on Sundays, for frequent special events, and plan for the new residential and commercial buildings to be able to deal with access during these frequent events so it would be much more convenient place to shut down car traffic than Summit or River Rd

    Unless we do Army Coprs of Engr type work on this road, it will continue to be wet, icy, slick in bad weather, it will work much better for drivers to go no more than 25 mph through here.

    One lane in each direction at 25 mph still will provide a connection of the freeways, and a neighborhood crossings that can relieve some congestion on neighborhood surface streets.

    It’s such a short route, even if average speed is way down (not likely), slower peak speeds won’t make much difference on trip times. As it is, drivers chose it when they have to endure lots of congestion at the ends anyways, one lane the whole length will just mean the lines will get longer but the stop times won’t be any worse, and as noted, probably even improve given less accident from merging being eliminated and lower speeds.

    AMR could go from being a dangerous, car-traffic inducing road that is mostly used by suburbanites and a financial anchor around the city’s neck, to a real jewel of urban public and event space and safe ped and bike transportation options.

  5. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker November 8, 2019 at 2:01 pm #

    The best solution for Ayd Mill Road would be to remove it entirely, make it a linear park, and finance the operation by selling parcels on the western bank, who would enjoy a beautiful park view.

    The second best solution is this one, I guess. It’s a big deal simply to put the breaks on the highway creep in this corridor. Hopefully after this goes through, it’ll become easier to envision the Ayd Mill gulch as the nationally-famous park it could be; St. Paul’s answer to the High Line/Belt Line/Greenway.

    • Mike Madden November 10, 2019 at 4:39 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more Alex. Mayor Carter’s proposal is a good, cost effective compromise for this moment when a mill and overlay is required.

      This will not be the final word on AMR. The clamor for an extension to I-94 will continue. If and when the City decides to take the issue up, it is committed to a Supplemental EIS which means all the alternatives, including the Linear Park, will be in play.

    • karen Nelson November 11, 2019 at 5:24 pm #

      This is the politically possible solution, and having a slow street down there won’t be all bad, but yes, it wastes primo real estate that could otherwise be producing property tax and economic activity and housing.

    • Daniel Choma
      Daniel Choma November 13, 2019 at 2:23 pm #

      The original EIS statement indicated removing Ayd. Mill and replacing it with a linear park is lll advised because it would add substantial traffic to Corcordia. Considering Concordia Ave is one of the places that is indicated in the recent city Climate Action Resilience Plan as being already highly at risk for health problems due to climate change, I think its not in the best interest of equity to put a gigantic fancy park in an affluent neighborhood only to funnel health risks to those already at a huge risk.

      Two lanes is fine, IMHO, and yall need to calm down about your big fancy park. I know Ayd Mill hops people up, but we don’t need anymore exorbitant health inequalities in Saint Paul. Its already bad.

      • Paul L Nelson November 13, 2019 at 4:12 pm #

        I think the perpetual perception that that a linear park would somehow shift traffic elsewhere like Concordia, is a false assumption. Overall the high auto traffic we have is very well induced by other factors like I-94, 35E, 280, etc that have no equivalent adjacent infra for even non motorized transit. We all need to better recognize how we have done nothing for walk and bicycle transit for transport for well over 100 years, and many of us have no idea what the outcome would have been if we had done a better job of building for those basic human modes of travel. We would now be in much better shape within a more livable environment and not so worried about motor vehicle traffic issues.

        I am not opposed to a linear park in part because we should never have built a motor vehicle road through this space in the first place, because of the weak and unstable surface the road is built on; cars and trucks are too heavy for this space surface.

        • Daniel Choma
          Daniel Choma November 13, 2019 at 5:05 pm #

          Its not a false assumption: it’s literally what the draft EIS concluded.

          Just because you haven’t read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement doesn’t mean you get to say it isn’t real.

          Health inequalities are also very very real things in St Paul and not a “false assumption.”

          Frankly I’m really tired of this attitude from urbanists south of the interstate: my neighborhood has legitimate concerns that a linear park would further drive health risks into our already disadvantaged neighborhood.

          I find being gas-lit by urbanists asking for a larger park than is being offered to be extremely offensive, especially considering how the topic at hand is continually growing health inequalities in St Paul.

          There is more than a DECADE in life expectancy differences between these two neighborhoods. A DECADE.

          https://streets.mn/2018/12/17/map-monday-twin-cities-metro-by-life-expectancy/

          And you have the audacity to gaslight over this?

          • Eric Anondson
            Eric Anondson November 13, 2019 at 5:56 pm #

            Highway have been removed and traffic apocalypses are predicted every time. Yet in numerous repeated cases where highways are removed, frequently drivers don’t end up creating congestion apocalypses.

            Have any EIS around high removal where drivers just disappeared ever gotten the disappearance of drivers correct?

            Ever?

            • Daniel Choma November 13, 2019 at 10:44 pm #

              It is very very very very usual for high traffic construction projects to be projected onto less affluent neighborhoods. It was how the entire interstate system was constructed, by intentionally destroying usually African American neighborhoods all over America from Minneapolis to Saint Paul to Cleveland to Milwaukee.

              Have largely white affluent neighborhoods had to compromise to have easy access to jobs, food, education, and resources?

              Ever?

              • Daniel Choma November 13, 2019 at 10:48 pm #

                Traffic Apocalypses do happen. Health Hazards do happen.

                Largely black neighborhoods having a life expectancy of 10 years less on average than largely white neighborhoods does happen, and it happens all the time.

                The EIS stated expressly that Concordia Ave, alternately named after Marvin Anderson, a famed black community member who started Rondo Days, is to experience much higher traffic levels should a gigantic park be built in a predominantly white neighborhood.

                Do white people, however liberally minded, consider the health needs of the people of color in their civic decisions?

                Ever?

                • Daniel Choma November 13, 2019 at 10:53 pm #

                  And what OTHER demographic can arbitrarily throw out the express conclusions of an expensive publicly funded EIS study, as well as the express contingency in 2009 for the St Paul City Council that this project even with two lanes is to be executed with a traffic study other than White Males on the Internet?

                  Can white dudes on the internet read the actual studies instead of just loudly demanding a project that according to all the studies would seriously damage a community that has already experienced severe damage due to transportation infrastructure?

                  EVER?

                  • Eric Anondson
                    Eric Anondson November 13, 2019 at 11:24 pm #

                    I don’t advocate a position one way or another on a linear park vs. two-lane vs-four-lane. I really like the two-lane option the most right now. I’m honestly asking has any study ever accurately predicted the non-traffic when highways are permanently removed?
                    I am aware studies cite traffic impacts as a risk, I believe you that this EIS has all sorts of numbers, diagrams, and spreadsheets from credentialed consultants. When it comes to traffic impacts around a highway removal project, I want to see a track record of accuracy about what will happen when highways are removed because the past performance hasn’t been impressive. But that may just be from all the press the highway removals in Milwaukee, Seattle, Seoul, San Francisco, and others enjoyed.
                    I honestly am asking is there a permanent highway removal where traffic predictions were spot on.

                  • Mike Madden November 15, 2019 at 6:47 pm #

                    I have read the EIS in its entirety. From a traffic perspective, the Linear Park provides the best outcome (lowest vehicle counts) for Concordia Avenue and the adjacent Snelling Park neighborhood.
                    Additionally, several people from that neighborhood testified that they opposed removal of the Pascal Bridge (required for the build alternatives) because of the easy access it provides to the midway.
                    Neighborhoods First! provided extensive comments to the EIS regarding social and environmental justice. I hope you will join us Daniel, in advocating for Linear Park which not only brings the greatest benefit to Saint Paul as a whole, but also does the least damage to the disadvantaged neighborhood we are both concerned about.

      • Mike Madden November 15, 2019 at 6:30 pm #

        The EIS says no such thing. In fact, it says precisely the opposite. From Table 4-3 of the Draft EIS, here are the peak hour projected volumes for Concordia Avenue west of Pascal in the year 2020:

        No-Build-500
        TSM/TDM-475
        Linear Park-475
        Two-Lane Extended-1100
        Four-Lane Extended-1150

        Highways cause adverse health outcomes, not parks.

  6. Paul Nelson November 8, 2019 at 2:27 pm #

    I think Mayor Carter’s description and the configuration and design of the illustration above (at the top) is perfect. The work and engineering cost to make this work is, I believe the simplest lowest cost, and quickest design we can do. Moreover, the design and layout of the bike and walk section is not described by a “multi use” or “shared use” “path” standard. The design separates walk and bike safely and adequately and accommodates the different speeds of walk and bike as modes of travel. This concept is how we should have built all of our roads where the design speeds are 40 mph up through 70 mph.for motor vehicle traffic.

    • karen Nelson November 11, 2019 at 5:26 pm #

      this is better than a surface street with intersections being 45+ mph, but still think this should just be 25 mph like all our city streets should be.

      Will hardly change trip times

  7. Ben November 8, 2019 at 4:04 pm #

    I live in Summit Hill and use AMR as an on-ramp to 35E South. Reducing it to 2 lanes isn’t going to change anything for residents. You’d have to add 10 minutes of trip time before Google maps will start rerouting drivers to Lexington. Congestion in rush hour is a feature, not a bug.

    • karen Nelson November 11, 2019 at 5:27 pm #

      yes

  8. James M. Hamilton November 8, 2019 at 5:03 pm #

    My concerns with the Mayor’s plans fall into two separate categories. I neither oppose nor support the plan.

    In my view, this is yet another piecemeal approach to AMR, one focused primarily on creating bicycle and pedestrian pathways, with no real consideration given to consequences on and off AMR.

    If this proposal will drive traffic elsewhere, let’s determine where and what measures (if any) will be necessary to address them.

    Let’s also decide what we’re going to do at Selby. If the City’s expectation is that squeezing down at AMR will solve that problem, it’s incumbent upon it to say so and explain the underlying rationale. Even if that were the case, we still would be faced with the question of where they will go. As we’ve seen this week, with AMR closed at Summit, southbound motorists remain committed to crossing from the junction of I-94 and Snelling to access I-35E in some fashion, using our arterial streets.

    Taking action on the basis of a ten-year-old resolution and even older data and planning is the first. My concerns have only become greater as I learn more about the actions taken in the past 9 months. Those actions are my second concern.

    What little we do know comes largely from the office of Russ Stark, Chief Resilience Officer, through Director of Public Works Kathy Lantry. I have obtained additional information by requesting documents from the City under the Data Practices Act. In brief, my understanding is that average daily traffic (ADT) on AMR was projected to be 21,000 by 2020. Southbound traffic today is reported as 26,000. The City Engineer’s office has estimated the capacity of a two-lane roadway at 17,000 – 23,000. Even at the upper limit of that capacity, current traffic exceeds capacity by more than 10%. Stark, in an internal email, wrote that he knows generally what will happen: traffic will be pushed off of AMR and onto unknown (or at least unspecified) arteries. Some may divert using other highways. (The City Engineer’s office recently opined that a two-lane configuration under these circumstances will lead to significant congestion at the south end of AMR, with “conflicting movements to and from St. Clair and Grand expected to result in long queues and delays. . . . We would anticipate vehicular congestion on Ayd Mill Road and diversion of traffic to other routes[.]”) The fact is that no one knows (or is saying) where that traffic will go.

    Kathy Lantry and engineering staff assumed in the early months of this year, when the plan originated, that there would be both a traffic study and a public process. (More on that in a bit.) When she addressed the City Council, she said “we” don’t believe that is necessary.” She told the Council, in effect, “we know there will be consequences but we don’t know what exactly they will be. We will deal with them later.” (Paraphrasing.)

    In August of this year, I suggested to Council Members that the concept be tested. Recently, Lantry said “we don’t know” whether a test would generate reliable data. As far as I can see, we have no reliable data today.

    There has been no public mention by the City of any attempt to address the evening rush-hour situation at the north end, to my knowledge.

    Do what you will at AMR but do it right. Don’t just hope you can fix the problems it may cause.

    Turning to my second concern: As I mentioned, Lantry and staff expected to conduct both a traffic study and a public process. On April 11, four months before the Mayor announced it in his budget address, Stark personally shut down both ideas. At his direction and insistence, the matter was withheld from the public while the details were collected. Here is precisely what he said: “Kathy knows that I disagree about the need for a traffic study, I think the impacts are relatively predictable and that IN ANY CASE OUR POLICY PRIORITIES MEAN THAT WE WILL LIVE WITH THE TRADE-OFF OF THE ROAD-DIET ON WAY OR ANOTHER, SO WHY SPEND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO STUDY?” (Emphasis mine.)

    Given Stark’s position and Lantry’s questionable statements to the Council, I have no reason to accept anything coming out of the Mayor’s office on this subject.

    • Paul L Nelson November 12, 2019 at 12:19 pm #

      “In my view, this is yet another piecemeal approach to AMR, one focused primarily on creating bicycle and pedestrian pathways, with no real consideration given to consequences on and off AMR.”

      The consequences on and off Ayd Mill are here and now in plain sight. No further study will inform us any better now than we should have been informed over the last 110 years, and the last 17 years with Ayd Mill.

      We need a new roadway system. We need to prioritize design and infra for walk and bike before the car because walk/bike is what is completely missing in too many places and we all are being hurt by a continual “motorway-only” policy of design in what we have built and what we continue to build today.

      The concept in the image above is not a “pathway” concept. It is unprecedented in the standards specified in MUP and SUP structures throughout the country.

      The Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis is a highway structure by definition. The design standard for walk and bike above is exactly the standard of design of the MTG in Minneapolis, and if Ayd Mill ultimately connects with the MTG the structure will be a non motorized highway with through design and a great deal less interruption of travel for walk and bike.

      I think for multiple reasons we all would be in better shape today if an auto pathway had not been built through the Ayd Mill space. The surface is an old creek bed and not a stable surface for the weight of cars and trucks. Hence the higher on going cost of maintenance not paid enough or directly by those of us who are using the heavier motor vehicles. A non motorize walk/bike highway would be much better to build.

  9. Steve Subera November 8, 2019 at 5:31 pm #

    Thanks Andy. I hope there is a workable plan for two lanes. You wrote, “We can have a debate, study and public process about how to implement the mayor’s proposal but not whether we’re going to implement it.”

    I just read Kathy Lantry’s Ayd Mill update from September 10 and it didn’t seem like there would be any debate, study, or public process about how to implement it. The document, on its own, looks like the public works is going to just figure it out and let the council know. It didn’t mention using the $1.7 million for a study as you said. Lantry said there would be no before or after study or official study, just some traffic counts at certain locations. That shouldn’t take $1.7 million.

    Is there any other information from the city about the process out there that I’ve missed?

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer November 8, 2019 at 11:36 pm #

      I could be wrong but I don’t think Public Works (PW) has had staff time or resources to look at this much at all in the short term. If the Council decides to go forward and shifts some bike funding to the project, PW would then look at it in more detail. There’s actually quite a bit of engineering. They’d have to figure out how and where cyclists and pedestrians would access it (curbs, sidewalks or paths at the various cross streets and ends. This could be tricky at the south end. The easiest thing might be to use the Jefferson on-ramp but other options might be better/safer/more connective. Then there’s signal changes and probably dedicated left turn lanes at the various cross street entrances/exits, which exist on the east side lanes but would have to be switched to the west side lanes. Finally, there would need to be a cross-over at the north and south ends to route cars onto the west side. So I don’t think $1.7 million is unreasonable to come up with plan sets for all that, perhaps with a couple options, gather some public feedback and make a design recommendation.

  10. Peter November 9, 2019 at 4:01 pm #

    No one has mentioned that in the years since Ayd Mill was opened to 35E northbound traffic, Lexington Avenue from Randolph to Grand Avenue was converted from a 4 lane road to a 2 lane road with turn lanes and a bikeway. Reducing Ayd to 2 lanes will force traffic onto Lexington. Previous traffic studies on Ayd Mill were conducted with a 4 lane Lexington Avenue. Lexington has serious congestion issues now. This Ayd Mill plan will make it worse. Development at Selby and Snelling has raised the density at the north end of Ayd. Again this increased density was completed after any traffic studies. The City is making decisions on outdated information. The City should conduct traffic studies prior to implementation. Public Works sighted the need only to have our Resilience Officer ( Mr Strark) shout the idea done. Let’s be smart on this issue and make decisions on valid assumptions.

    • Paul Nelson November 9, 2019 at 9:38 pm #

      It is not correct to state that “Reducing Ayd Mill to 2 lanes will force traffic on to Lexington” – that is a false assumption. The current ADT on Ayd Mill for motor vehicle traffic is circa 24K and that fits fine in a two lane roadway with no four lane intersections. Traffic studies are not necessary for Ayd Mill Road.

      Lexington is a different road than Ayd Mill and it should be noted that Lexington does not have protected bike lanes the full length of the road. Strong advocacy and public support was demonstrated for off road bike infra in the early 80s when Lexington was rebuilt from Grand to Pierce Butler. Nothing was done for bicycle transport. Lexington should have full safe and protected space for walk and bike the entire length of the roadway. So should Snelling, University I-94, 35E, and many other roads. The motorway-only design of many roads is the primary basis of induced demand for auto use and the clear outcome cause of congestion on Lexington and other roads. When Ayd Mill Road was built, it was designed as a motorway-only road with nothing for non motorized walk and bike. That has been a repeated mistake of roadway design in many places. We need a new roadway system and stop inducing auto congestion by building for auto only roadway consideration and design. We need other options to get around, not just for cars only. And this is especially needed in locations with lots of people like cities and towns.

    • Mike Madden November 10, 2019 at 4:07 pm #

      This is not a decision based in arithmetic, but let’s look at previous studies anyway for a laugh. The Kelly EIS projected that a four lane Ayd Mill Road connected to the interstate system at both ends would carry 21K vehicles per day by the year 2020. Counts taken in 2014 found the road carrying 26K vehicles per day. That’s 5K more than projected, six years before the projection date, with no extension to I-94.

  11. Angie November 10, 2019 at 12:38 am #

    When 35W bridge collapse there were no major impact on the streets nearby.
    The city should consider building over AMR on both sides of Grand Ave /AMR and ST Clair to reclaim some land and to generate $$$$$.Build store front on the street level with housings/Parking on top ,Senior/ Micro Apts with very limited parking Kowalski parking lot can be develop with parking garage over AMR .
    1/3 of the city does not pay taxes because of non-profit ,they need to be creative to expand their tax base
    NY/Toyko /HK all build hi-rises over the rail stations and make money from the real estate

  12. Mike Madden November 10, 2019 at 3:48 pm #

    Great article Andy. I love your alternative title to the Barnes paper, and I’m glad you outed Raduenz.

    Here is the AMR timeline that I know to be correct:

    1982- Record of Decision is published for I-35E. It explicitly says that the City of Saint Paul shall determine whether or not to connect to AMR.
    1987- I-35E is completed from Highway 110 to Randolph Avenue. Saint Paul, under Mayor George Latimer, forms the first AMR Citizens Advisory Task Force. One significant finding was that "AMR should not be connected to I-35E at the south unless adequate improvements were determined and made to the existing street system at the north to accommodate the concentration of traffic that a southern connection would produce." The Task concluded that the issues were serious enough that an EIS was warranted.
    1989- The City Council concurs with the Task Force and orders that an EIS be conducted.
    1992- With the EIS not yet underway, ramps are built to connect AMR and I-35E. The ramps are to be used by HOV vehicles only during the reconstruction of the Lafayette Bridge (Highway 52). Cognizant that an EIS has been ordered, Public Works Director Julian Epson issues a memo assuring that the connection is not an end run around the EIS, and that it will close promptly with completion of the Lafayette Bridge. The City keeps its word.
    1993- The City secures funding for the EIS and a new AMR Citizen Advisory Task Force is established.
    1995- The Scoping Phase of the EIS is completed and released for public review. Alternatives are winnowed to six: No Build, Linear Park, TSM/TDM, Two-Lane Extended to St. Anthony Avenue, Four-Lane Extended to St. Anthony Avenue, Four-Lane Extended with Bridged Ramps.
    1997- Task Force reconvenes for Draft Phase of the EIS. At the May meeting, Merriam Park representative Matt Hollingshead asks if extension of the Midtown Greenway will be a part of the study. SRF Consultant Charlene Zimmer responds affirmatively.
    1999- Draft EIS is released for public review. Task Force selects the Linear Park as its preferred alternative. Planning Commission Selects the Four-Lane Extended to St. Anthony Avenue following a presentation by Task Force Chair Mike Klassen during which he recommends the Four-Lane and disparages his own Task Force.
    2000- Saint Paul City Council, the final authority in the matter, selects the Two-Lane Extended to St. Anthony Avenue as the Preferred Alternative. It's important to note that Mayor Norm Coleman, though he did informally support the Four-Lane, signed the Two-Lane Resolution authored by the City Council making it the undisputed Preferred Alternative for the project.
    2002- Newly elected Mayor Randy Kelly declares the Four-Lane Extended to St. Anthony Avenue to be the new Preferred Alternative and announces a 12 month 'test' opening of the south ramps which begins in June.
    2003- The 'test' expires. Kelly announces and 18 month extension of the 'test'. No data is collected during this period.
    2004- The 18 month extension expires in December and the south connection is declared permanent. The EIS is still not complete meaning the City is now in clear violation of the State Statutes and EQB Rules that govern the conduct of an EIS.
    2005- The EIS is completed in January. There is a public hearing in March. The Record of Decision is issued in June.

  13. Jerome Johnson November 15, 2019 at 4:37 pm #

    Very informative. Thank you. And a wealth of supplemental information and opinion through the subsequent commentary.

    But nowhere could I find much said about another option: A two lane limited access connection all the way between I-94 and I-35E with no on/off access in between. That would allow for the “freeway” connector to be on the east of the right of way and next to the existing freight rail tracks. The pavement itself would need to be about 50 feet wide with a center median that would function and even look much like what you see today for freeways under construction requiring single lane movements each way. This is doable and it keeps suburban traffic out of Snelling/Selby and other neighborhood thoroughfares. It also reflects the reality that the auto is not going away but the reasonable assumption that continued improvements in emissions technology and auto fuel efficiency combined with more efficient auto movements through the area are a net emissions positive. To wit, the fleet using that stretch will be getting 50 mpg ten years down the line versus, oh, 22 today AND population growth in Dakota County and hence vehicle passenger miles traveled out there will moderate as inner cities become more livable and city zoning restrictions are relaxed. On the fiscal side, a roadway of this sort would be a functional state highway – or even an interstate designation – meaning that no city money would be used for maintenance.

    This leaves the west side of the right of way for trail use and other forms of development. Since there are few, if any, interchanges with city streets like Grand and St. Clair there would be minimal bike/ped/vehicle interactions and a safer bike/walk experience. And best I can tell from the maps, a fairly straightforward trail connection with the MDG network from west of Snelling to the short line bridge is highly doable. Even the new connection to I-94 on the north end looks doable in a way that should not compromise trail development.

    As for dealing with the railroad, there will always be rail-trail proximity issues over the Mississippi and along the CP right of way through St. Paul between the river and the Snelling area. Over time, that will take care of itself as the lone remaining shipper west of the river, a flour mill, eventually closes or finds a way to use truck deliveries. Once the frieight dries up, CP will be more than glad to look at alternative uses for the bridge and rail bed. Meantime, there are other ways to minimize freight RR liability and run trails in the same right of way. An effective physical barrier, of course, would be needed, but so would real estate transfers and/or transfers of rail service delivery obligations to more flexible third party providers. There are rail lines far more active today than the short line running over to ADM in Minneapolis with trails within 10 feet of the railed. Need I mention Austin Texas near their Amtrak station or, closer to home, the way the short line switching carrier serving St. Cloud was able to work with Stearns county to extend the Lake Woebegone trail into St. Cloud along the former BNSF tracks?

    Yes, this proposal would cost more than converting AMD to just two lanes with no expansion north, but it ensures suburban cut-through traffic stays out of STP neighborhoods and, in the spirit of compromise, gives even the road-stained/never rail/never trail proponents in the capital – including MNDoT – something to think about. And much of it would gladly be done with state or federal money. How often does a bi-partisan road/transit initiative like that happen around here?

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer November 22, 2019 at 3:27 am #

      It’s an idea …but my impression (based on attending lots of public meetings and reading tons of social media posts) is that the local users of the road are the most vocal (and most politically impactful) and would go nuts if all the on/off-ramps were eliminated. Plus, a change of this magnitude would necessitate a whole new public process and E.I.S. costing buckets of money that the city doesn’t have. As for rail trails, since the Midtown Greenway was initially negotiated and built, Federal law has changed, making rail-trails on active rail lines much harder to negotiate. Unless a line is abandoned (which is a possibility from Minneapolis to Cleveland Avenue), one is at the whim of the railroad. From Cleveland Avenue east to Union Depot, this is still a fairly active CP-Rail branch line. Here’s the currently controlling/precedent-setting case to give you an idea– https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/414/858/622185/

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer November 22, 2019 at 3:29 am #

      …a northern connection, BTW, was quoted back in 2004 at somewhere around $70-80 million and would now probably be over $100 million.

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