Facing Dire Straits, Saint Paul Should Pull the Plug on Ayd Mill Road

Hamburg Freeway

It’s with no joy that I write yet another column about Ayd Mill Road, Saint Paul’s crumbling concrete albatross. I’ve been at this for years, and you are not familiar with this long saga, here’s a quick primer:

Screen Shot 2020 02 17 At 6.04.21 PmThe latest news remains vague, but the relevant info is that the redesign will be much more expensive, and much less extensive, than originally planned. This from this week’s Star Tribune article (the most recent):

The overhaul of the crumbling corridor, which accounts for a third of the pothole work done citywide, would reconfigure one of four lanes for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, leaving the other three lanes for motor vehicles.

The proposed cost is higher than the $5.2 million requested in Mayor Melvin Carter’s proposed 2020 budget, because of an underground spring that has undermined the pavement and other complications, according to city public works officials.

For someone who has long wanted to see meaningful changes on Ayd Mill Road, this is a depressing turn. The common-sense two-lane compromise is being watered down, and the whole thing is becoming an expensive boondoggle.

One frustrating thing about this story is that it’s continually being framed as a bicycle project.

It’s not.

Sure, the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition supports the project, and there would be a bike trail here, and maybe someday if some magic happens over in Hennepin County, there might be a Greenway connection over the river from Minneapolis into Saint Paul. Should that day ever come, this connection in Ayd Mill Road could be genuinely useful.

But the huge price-tag for Ayd Mill Road is 90% a car problem, and only 10% a bike/walk trail. By itself, a bike/pedestrian in the Ayd Mill Road trench would be relatively cheap to build. My half-informed guess is that it might be around $500,000 total for the project, since there are so few intersections. (A basic bike path costs something like $250K per mile, at least in many other parts of the country. Not to mention the fact that a bike trail here would be worthy project for regional Federal dollars; so the city might pay only 20% of the total cost.)

Once again, the real issue here is cars.  This two-mile suburban short-cut costs a ton because of cars. And in 2020, facing huge challenges, the simple truth is that Saint Paul can’t afford to throw money into this pit any longer.

Allow me to explain…

Problem #1: Taxing the Poor to Underfund Streets

You cannot understand the Ayd Mill Road impasse without looking at two stark trends. The first is Saint Paul’s road funding dilemma. Some months ago, I sat through a presentation by city engineer who laid out, bleakly, how desperate the public works budget has become.

The problem is that the city’s street maintenance budget has long been underfunded. It was even bad before six years ago, when then-Mayor Chris Coleman declared that the city would fix the “Terrible Twenty”, a list of particularly pothole’d arterial streets. That decision exacerbated the overall picture because it diverted funding from residential street reconstruction (a long-term fix) into arterial mill-and-overlay repaving (a short term fix).

Hamline Between Goodrich And Saint Clair 1

Hamline Avenue between Goodrich and St. Clair.

(Fun fact: doing a mill-and-overlay repaving on Hamline Avenue seven years ago did not really fix the fundamental problem. Go look at Hamline today; the street is almost as bad as it was before. )

Saint Paul’s situation got even worse after the non-profit lawsuit pulled another $32 million out of the street maintenance budget. That left a huge hole, and according to my notes from the meeting with Public Works, the city needs another $20 to $24 million dollars annually to keep the Pavement Condition Index around 65-70 (aka., an acceptable level) in the long term. 

The result is that our city streets are poised on the edge of a fiscal maintenance cliff because streets don’t age in a linear way. Because of where our city streets are in their “lifecycle”, it’s very difficult for the city to perform cost-efficient maintenance. Saint Paul public works is forced instead to do expensive and inefficient quick fixes instead of long-term reconstructions. It’s similar to paying a debt when the interest rate keeps going up, so that eventually you’re not even reducing the principal. The charts that I saw during that meeting showed how quickly city streets will deteriorate over the next five years if more money cannot be found somewhere.

Saint Paul Street Condition Index

The life-cycle curve is not a linear decline.

That’s why the city is lobbying for state permission to raise a regressive sales tax. Sales taxes are bad because they impact the poor much more than the rich, because poor people spend a far higher percentage of their income on basic necessities. And yet, policy makers are stuck between a regressive rock and the hard place of ever-rising property taxes. The bad solution is apparently better, it seems, than raising property taxes even higher.

Screen Shot 2020 02 17 At 5.51.59 Pm

This situation means that Saint Paul should be entering a triage mode when it comes to its streets. The city needs to think carefully about where it spends its scarce resources, and that goes double if regressive sales taxes are funding the street system.

Problem #2: The Need for Climate Action

Of course, the second big trend is climate change. My favorite depressing primer is Davis Wallace-Wells’ recent book, The Uninhabitable Earth, which I highly recommend for those with stout stomachs. (See also this article from last week in The Guardian.)

I don’t need to browbeat anyone with the enormity of the problem, or the desperate need for cities like Saint Paul to become regional leaders in reducing CO2 emissions. It suffices to point at the recently-passed Saint Paul Climate Action and Resilience Plan, which put on the books ambitious transportation goals, including reducing driving in the city by 10% by  2030. Taking climate change seriously, and treating our goals as worth more than paper, means making tough choices about where and how to subsidize automobile driving.

Screen Shot 2020 02 17 At 5.41.04 Pm

It will be all-but-impossible to meet Saint Paul’s transportation goals if we spend our money re-building Ayd Mill Road.

The Ayd Mill Road Impasse

These two stark trends collide with this week’s Ayd Mill Road dilemma. Generations of city leaders have kicked the can down this crumbling road in the past. This week, the city is faced with a real choice about what to do.

Keep in mind that spending $7,000,000 or $8,000,000 or $9,000,000 million dollars to “fix” Ayd Mill Road with a coat of asphalt won’t even solve the underlying problem, which is that the structural concrete and foundational road bed is falling apart. Rather, this heavy expenditure is a fraction of the total cost that will come due in another ten years, a sum of city money that will easily be eight-figures, if not nine.

That’s why its frustrating that nobody is talking about the best choice available to the City of Saint Paul. The city has a unique opportunity where doing nothing, not spending money, can solve two of Saint Paul’s most urgent problems. 

The courageous and necessary thing to do about Ayd Mill Road is to stop throwing good money after bad, and simply shut it down. We can’t afford to spend precious millions on a short-term fix for a piece of infrastructure that’s destroying the atmosphere.

My plan for the Ayd Mill valley is simple:

Kill the road, and talk it out.

Stp Ayd Mill Closed

Vision board.

What if we closed the road and had an honest, community conversation about the real cost of this two-mile shortcut? What if the city laid out, in black-and-white, what the trade-offs look like for the city’s street maintenance budget? What if we came up with an estimate of the long-term, reconstruction cost of Ayd Mill Road? Why not ask people all over the city how they want the space used, and how they want their very precious tax dollars spent?

If you want my opinion, spending $8 (short-term) to $80 million (long-term) on a highway shortcut in the year 2020 is a terrible decision, and we could easily lay other options on the table. Once we closed Ayd Mill Road and took the long term liability off the books, Saint Paul residents and taxpayers could have a much more interesting discussion about what to do. In this scenario, building a biking and walking path would be an affordable (ideally, grant funded) no-brainer. Meanwhile, the rest of the land could be used in countless ways: for community gardens, people parks, dog parks, playgrounds, housing, a day-lit creek, or a dozen things I can’t even imagine.

Ayd Mill 6

Ayd Mill Road: this place could be so many things.

Why not offer to use part of the $8M as a “Ayd Mill park improvement fund” and ask neighbors what to do with it? Why not dedicate some of the money to traffic safety mitigation on nearby streets? Why not use some of the millions we’d be spending on asphalt, and offer it to people in neighborhoods all over the city?  I’m sure every Council Member could find a $500K project they would champion.

Last July, Mayor Carter made a strong statement and decision when he cancelled the (not-very-impressive-in-the-first-place) annual fireworks. At the time, he said:

“As I’ve considered the budgetary priorities we manage across our city in the first year of my administration, I’ve decided I can’t in good conscience support spending tax dollars on a fireworks display in St. Paul this year. The fact of the matter is that we just don’t have $100,000 to spend blowing up rockets over our city.” 

That was the right idea, even if some people complained. And if spending $100,000 on a ephemeral fireworks show is not a good use of city dollars, spending $8,000,000 on an 10-year fix for a freeway shortcut to Dakota County is much worse.

I am not sure how many of the current decision makers will be around ten years from now when the bill for the roadbed will come due, and the city will have to argue all over again what to do with this road and who will pay the exorbitant cost. The only thing I’m certain about is that, by then, our fiscal and environmental choices will be far worse than they are today. 

In an era when Saint Paul is so desperate for street maintenance dollars that it’s turning to a regressive sales tax to fix streets, we can no longer afford to coddle suburban commuters with huge expenditures from the city’s tax base. Instead of doubling-down on a sunk-cost 1950s freeway that will make the city’s climate goals all the more impossible to achieve, Saint Paul leaders should make a win-win decision: simply close the road, let the cars fall where they may, and let’s have a straightforward conversation about Saint Paul’s priorities.

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114 Responses to Facing Dire Straits, Saint Paul Should Pull the Plug on Ayd Mill Road

  1. Tom Quinn February 18, 2020 at 10:19 am #

    Thank you for a very thoughtful and useful article.

    I’d just leave the road alone. Let it deteriorate and die a slow and natural death. There’s no consensus on doing anything else.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 12:55 pm #

      Wait long enough, and it could become a mountain bike trail at zero cost to anyone.

      • Michael Moore February 19, 2020 at 7:16 am #

        Funny, and true.

  2. Bob Roscoe February 18, 2020 at 10:27 am #

    As chief editor of the Journal of American Rocket Science, I propose cutting up the concrete roadbed into dinner plate size pieces and chisel in the words “I helped kill And Mill Road!”

    The proceeds from sales can plant thousands of pine trees that the city can sell at Christmas time – year after year.

    • Marilyn K. Ranger February 18, 2020 at 4:06 pm #

      How about selling those cut up pieces like they did to the metrodome roof. I’ll buy one.

    • Joe February 19, 2020 at 8:38 am #

      Non-fatally frighten two birds with one stone – use the 4th of July explosives budget to blow up Ayd Mill Road. The suburbanites get their free, government-provided entertainment, and we get our neighborhood back.

  3. Mike Sonn
    Mike Sonn February 18, 2020 at 10:50 am #

    Thank you, Bill. I’m of the same mind when it comes to AMR. Shut it down. Mayor Kelly connected it via fiat, so Mayor Carter can close it the same way. If it is so unsafe as to need this emergency funding, then it needs to be closed to cars ASAP. Yesterday, in fact.

  4. Scott Walters February 18, 2020 at 11:18 am #

    Agree 100 percent, with Bill and Mike. Late some Sunday night, send public works out with trucks and forklifts and just put the Jersey Barriers back up. Sorry, road closed forever. If Randy Kelly can unilaterally open it, Melvin Carter can unilaterally close it.
    I’d forgotten about the fireworks. If we can’t afford $100,000 in disposable rockets, we’re insane to be talking about even $8,000,000, let alone $80,000,000 on a lousy street.

    And to talk about raising taxes on Saint Paulites, especially a regressive sales tax, to pay for the Dakota County shortcut? Absolute lunacy.

  5. Steve Subera February 18, 2020 at 11:32 am #

    I’ve lived near and used Ayd Mill for 20 years. It’s been personally useful and frustrating at different times. I’ve liked it and can live without it. I was OK with Carter’s plan for two lanes + bike/ped. Except he screwed up when Lantry went before the city council with the news that it would cost nearly double and then sprung the new plan on the city council. Now I wonder how much the $7.5 million plan will cost.

    I think closing it now would be a good option. Perhaps the original money that was allocated ($3.5 million) could go to street repair (and some for bike lanes, too) and a current study of traffic patterns that could once and for all end the debate about where the traffic would go. Hard data that everyone with an interest could agree upon.

    As for the 1% sales tax, I think Noecker is pushing for using it for child care and that will take almost all of the extra money it would generate.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 12:18 pm #

      My reading on the sales tax is that it’s mostly about filling the transportation funding hole. Once you sit through the Public Works pavement condition index trends presentation, you never forget it. Once any city leader, like the Council, sees those charts, they know we need to get $20M from somewhere.

      IMO, the child care stuff is just to make it more palatable, and to make the tax more in line with the city’s equity goals.

  6. Ben February 18, 2020 at 11:44 am #

    I wonder if the structural issues are along the entire stretch of it or not. They could close all of it North of St Clair and leave the connection to 35E North & South. If I’m going to live in a neighborhood with a major highway passing through it, the least they could do is allow me to get on and off it in both directions.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 12:20 pm #

      Granted, I’m not a civil engineer. Buuuuuut, the road was built in the early 50s on an unstable creek bed. It’s in bad shape, and a layer of pavement is not going to solve the fundamental problem.

      • Paul Nelson February 18, 2020 at 12:33 pm #

        Thank you, Bill. That is exactly the real problem.

      • Ben February 18, 2020 at 1:23 pm #

        Right, I understand that it was built on an unstable creek bed. My question is whether that condition applies to the whole stretch of the road or just part of it.

        I’m with you on not using AMR as service road to Eagan, but there needs to be an efficient way for people who actually live in Saint Paul to get onto both major highways that serve the city.

        There are 6 full East & West entrances to I-94 between downtown and the river, which evenly disperses neighborhood traffic; however, there are only 2 full North & South entrances to 35E at Randolph and West 7th. There are 2 northbound-only ramps at Victoria and St Clair, and 2 southbound-only ramps at Ramsey/Grand and Kellogg.

        Google Maps isn’t going to send people North to go South and South to go North. It’s going to send everyone to the Randolph interchange 500ft from via the intersection that’s always blocked by people illegally turning left into Trader Joe’s.

        Close Ayd Mill Road, make it a linear park with bike trails, and either leave the connection to 35E South open or replace it by opening one on St. Clair and Pleasant. Whichever solution is cheaper in the long-term is fine with me.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 2:07 pm #

          I don’t know the answer about the creek bed.

          There is a way for people to get onto both major highways: our county-funded arterial streets.

          What you’re talking about might be good in theory, but the problem is the price tag. IF it was free, OK sure maybe we can discuss… But as a city budget priority, it doesn’t rank.

          • Ben February 18, 2020 at 5:03 pm #

            If the fundamental problem is that it’s structurally unsound, then we should understand the specifics of that problem. If the whole thing is bad, sure, scrap all of it. If the problem doesn’t extend to the southern-most half mile of the road, then don’t close that part. It’ll cost whatever it costs to maintain 0.5 miles of city street and residents will have efficient access to a major highway.

            If the fundamental problem is climate change, will closing AMR reduce SOV trips or VMT or will it push the 35E-to-94 exchange to downtown St. Paul and add 7 miles to those round-trip commutes?

            • Bill Lindeke
              Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 6:14 pm #

              I would love to know more. This is being rushed before it can be vetted, for some reason.

              As for climate change, it would absolutely reduce driving within the city limits.

          • Jerome Johnson February 19, 2020 at 11:30 am #

            The parallel running freight RR has somehow figured out how to stabilize its track sub grade over that creek bed and they are operating 130+ ton cars and heavier locomotives over it. They might have some insight. We might not like the cost but, then again, perhaps it won’t be so bad after a one-off rebuild. It used to cost about $25K per track mile per year to fully. maintain track similar to what CPR has today along Ayd Mill, according to industry data. About $10,000 to $15,000 would fixed and independent of train volume, the remainder a function of tonnage. Apply that to four highway lanes per mile with minimal tonnage relative to freight rail and you should get under $100K per route mile per year, year in and year out. But you need to deal with the underlying sub grade issues first. CPR evidently has, as I am unaware of any significant derailments over that stretch andAmtrak does not seem to slow down through that area, an indication that the track is in maintenance equilibrium.

            • Steve Subera February 19, 2020 at 1:49 pm #

              Director Lantry told the council that after some research they found the underlying concrete of the road to be in pretty good shape. The last mill and overlay was in 2003. She also said standing water from a spring near Grand Avenue has presented problems because the road there never really dries out.

  7. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker February 18, 2020 at 12:21 pm #

    Thank. You. Bill.

  8. Steve February 18, 2020 at 12:29 pm #

    Close it – and if it is deemed an important corridor then the county or state can own it going forward (like it should be anyway)

  9. Paul Nelson February 18, 2020 at 12:31 pm #

    I think closing this motorway space to car traffic is the most reasonable thing to do at this point, for all of us. It is clear to me that the general public honestly does not know or appreciate the real costs of accommodating and moving cars everywhere throughout the city. Those of us who have cars (I have one) simply are not paying enough directly to cover the costs of our car usage. Do we really need to move all motor vehicle traffic through the Ayd Mill space?

  10. Troy Davison
    Troy Davison February 18, 2020 at 12:42 pm #

    I think a 10-year life span for mill and overlay is too generous.

    Stop wasting money on repairs. Close it down now, the worst time for potholes is just around the corner. I forget what did they say they are spending per year on repairs just on AMR last year?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 12:54 pm #

      I would love to know more about the expected long-term maintenance liability. The whole process has not been transparent, or provided much opportunity for the public (or even privileged people on the Planning Commission, like myself) to ask questions.

  11. Monte Castleman February 18, 2020 at 12:55 pm #

    Fireworks don’t have the same huge economic benefit to society that facilitating mobility and reducing congestion cost do.

    Will it be good for the climate if the same cars that area flowing freely on Ayd Mill Road are instead idling at traffic signals on surface streets?

    • Mike Sonn
      Mike Sonn February 18, 2020 at 1:30 pm #

      I’m tired of the “keep traffic free flowing or the climate will be worse off w/ idling traffic” argument. It is patently false. On the flip side, induced demand is very real.

      • Bill Dooley February 18, 2020 at 5:34 pm #

        And new cars don’t idle. Automatic shutoff and restart if not in motion.

    • Ben February 18, 2020 at 1:51 pm #

      Most of the I-94 pass-through traffic could be diverted to Kellogg at the cost of 2 minutes of drive time.

  12. Steve Gjerdingen February 18, 2020 at 1:06 pm #

    Will closing Ayd Mill road improve the traffic situation at Selby and Snelling? If so, then I say YES, close it immediately!

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 4:50 pm #

      Yes, it absolutely would.

  13. Dan Marshall
    Dan Marshall February 18, 2020 at 1:16 pm #

    I agree 1000%. Close AMR permanently to car traffic. Then let’s have an open and honest discussion about what can happen there the same way we did with the Ford plant.

    Worst case scenario is SPPW’s 4-3 conversion plan with a bike lane right next to 3 lanes of speeding traffic. It’s incredibly expensive and the bike trail will be a truly miserable experience. To steal 40% of the whole city’s bike infra budget for the next 10 years just to create such a trail is a horrible idea.

  14. Rob Spence February 18, 2020 at 2:08 pm #

    I was a long time supporter of connecting AMR with 94 as was originally planned. (still not sure why that never happened) The manner in which it dumps onto Selby is clumsy and horrible for that increasingly busy intersection. Since it looks like connection will never happen, I’ve come to terms with the reality that the road will never meet it’s potential and we need to completely rethink it’s use.
    As a Crocus Hill resident, I do have concerns about what this is going to do to the now single lane Lexington if drivers are forced to other routes to navigate from 35E north to 94 west. If AMR is closed, there will certainly be a surge of traffic, but over time, drivers will learn new routes. Regardless of the impact on Lex, the current situation is untenable. AMR is an ugly gash through my neighborhood. The band-aid proposal currently on the table is throwing good money after bad.
    At this point, my opinion is that it be closed until a feasible, affordable new long-term plan is developed. I like the 2 lane parkway concept with a bike/walking trail, but don’t half-ass it… take the time to plan and fund it properly.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 3:29 pm #

      You might appreciate this take on what could happen to traffic:

      https://www.alex-schieferdecker.com/blog/close-ayd-mill-road-st-paul

      “Are there downsides to this approach? Yes there are. The one that comes up most frequently is a fear of the traffic volumes of Ayd Mill Road spilling over onto arterial streets like Lexington, Hamline, and Snelling. But here’s the thing: Ayd Mill Road already dumps thousands of cars onto these roads. How many car trips does Ayd Mill Road attract to these arterials, and how many does it replace? Certainly at Snelling and Selby, it’s clear to just about everyone that closing Ayd Mill Road would lead to less traffic, not more.

      If the experience of every other city that has removed a highway can be applied here, some trips may spill over onto local streets, some will take the interstate highway instead, and some will simply not be made. To my knowledge there is no city that has closed a highway and promptly experienced fatal congestion.

      Even giving this worst-case fear credence is probably giving it too much credit. It doesn’t even stand on its own. Money not spent on repaving Ayd Mill Road could be spent making safety improvements to these parallel arterials instead, obviating the reason for concern in the first place. Moreover, how much worse must these parallel roads get until they justify the cost of maintaining Ayd Mill Road and the opportunity cost of not transforming it? The motto of St. Paul is Omnia circum me damnum aversatio, which is Latin for “loss aversion rules everything around me.” Councilmembers living in fear of spillover traffic are not conducting an honest accounting of the advantages and disadvantages to this course of action. Rather, they are seeing the status quo, imagining everything getting worse, omitting any potential benefits, and proceeding accordingly. This is the St. Paul way, but only if people continue to accept it.”

      • Paul Nelson February 18, 2020 at 3:58 pm #

        I-94, 35E, 280 and many other roadways do not have safe parallel space for non motorized transport. As long as so many roads remain motorway-only, we will have too many cars on our city streets. That is why I do not use the word “highway” like others do. By definition a highway is a public way freely open to everyone. I think this should mean everyone should be able to walk, bike and roll a wheelchair on a highway. Highways should be designed for walk and bicycle first before any other mode.

      • Troy Davison
        Troy Davison February 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm #

        Remember how Minneapolis ground to a halt because of the 35W closure for a year? Yeah me neither because it didn’t happen. Traffic finds a way or goes away.

        • Brian February 20, 2020 at 5:40 am #

          MNDOT made a lot of emergency changes to other highways to handle the 35W traffic. Lanes were added to I-94 and I-694. They closed access to Highway 280 at Broadway to speed traffic.

  15. Bill Siegel February 18, 2020 at 3:27 pm #

    Close it, free the creek, and let loose the dogs!

  16. Eric Saathoff
    Eric Saathoff February 18, 2020 at 3:37 pm #

    Perhaps we shouldn’t make it easy to connect from northbound 35E to westbound 94. Does St. Paul need to worry about being a pass through from suburbs to MPLS? I’d prefer to focus on people living and working inside our city.

  17. Peter February 18, 2020 at 4:04 pm #

    Way off on the cost of the bike lane. Per the public works director (Kathy Lantry) she informed the City Finance Director on July 11, 2019 that the cost of the bike improvements would be $3.8 million. Here is her quote from her email secured through a freedom of information request;

    “We have sufficient budget to cover the mill and overlay for one side and the concrete restoration for the other side but we continue to have no financing source for the bike improvements. Would it be possible to add $3.8 million for 2020 to finance the bike stuff?”

    • Mike Sonn
      Mike Sonn February 18, 2020 at 4:21 pm #

      The catch is, what are those “bike improvements” really? They’re adding turn lanes for cars and drainage for cars. Probably the only bike/ped only cost is adding lighting because bike/ped requires human scale light, not 40′ high 1/4-spaced highway lighting.

      • Steve Subera February 18, 2020 at 4:34 pm #

        Lantry said in the video of the meeting that adding lighting for the the bike/ped path adds about $1 million.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke February 19, 2020 at 9:07 am #

          That seems absurd to me. There’s no lighting in Swede Hollow or on the Vento trail or on the Gateway trail…

          Meanwhile, critically needed bike infra like the Capital City Bikeway connections remain undone.

          • Steve Subera February 19, 2020 at 9:35 am #

            Seems like forest for the trees. Or maybe the city is trying to build consensus by coming up with a plan that everyone will dislike.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 4:41 pm #

      I cited a source that seems reasonable, but you are probably right. The Midtown Greenway cost a lot, about $4M per mile.

      The point is, though, that I am betting the city could get funding to cover much of that cost, whereas with the road, we are on the hook for the entire thing.

      I guess the larger point is that this is NOT a big bike priority. Nobody in the bike community that I am aware of was advocating for a bike connection here in 2020. The Greenway across the river, YES 100%, but in AMR, no. There are a dozen more worthy projects for Saint Paul, like the Capital City Bikeway or many other needed gaps and links. The only reason bikes are involved at all here is because the road is so screwed up and expensive.

      • Paul Nelson February 18, 2020 at 5:06 pm #

        This should be a big bike priority because this alignment is a through space that can connect close to Downtown to Marshall and the Midway. The outcome would be a much easier surface to maintain for the bicycle and walk in winter compared to street surfaces with cars (like bike lanes) that almost never get maintained.

        There is probably more to the cost stratification than we know, but I think the mill and overlay funds should be used for the bicycle infra.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 6:17 pm #

          Well, there are many more worthy projects IMO. The big difference is that this is not really dealing with a significant gap or barrier. You can bike on Lexington, Jefferson, etc.

          • Paul Nelson February 18, 2020 at 9:09 pm #

            Yes, there are many worthy projects for the bicycle as a mode of transport. The way I look at the Ayd Mill space is, if there were no MV lanes in there now, what is the value and importance of a non motorized thru-way in Ayd Mill? Without the connection to the MTG, does this space still present an important connection for bicycle travel? I think so.

            I do see a gap overall for the bike. There is no space for the bicycle on Lexington north of Grand. Jefferson is a city street that has cars packing the snow well before the plows come, at least this winter after late November – early December. Public works could not get to the residential streets fast enough before the additional snowfall, rain and freezing. Right now there is less than a foot of space on the south bike lane on Marshall, especially between Cretin and Cleveland. Cleveland has the system whereby one side of the street can be plowed to cut the snow bank one day a week (between 2 and 6 AM) for each side of the street. My street Van Buren still has 5 to six inch packed ice and car track ruts (From Dec 2nd), and useless for a two wheel bicycle with studs.

            Where the priority level is to build a non motorized surface in Ayd Mill without the car lanes, I am not certain. But I think Ayd Mill is very important for the bicycle and I would not denigrate or de-prioritize any other bicycle project.

  18. Jared February 18, 2020 at 4:09 pm #

    A quick google maps scenario will show you that if Ayd Mill is your fastest route, the second best option for any non-local trip would rarely involve Lexington or other St. Paul Streets.

    The runner up options listed are other freeway connections.

    I don’t think local St. Paul traffic is going to significantly increase Lexington volume if Ayd Mill closes, but it will definitely decrease local traffic near the 94 connection.

  19. Adam Froehlig
    Adam Froehlig February 18, 2020 at 4:38 pm #

    Here’s a question that, between the article and the comments, is unanswered: what do residents of Lexington think about the idea of closing Ayd Mill? I was under the impression that many of them favored Ayd Mill as they felt (right or wrong) that it took traffic off of Lexington.

    A follow-on question would be how many users of Ayd Mill would use Lexington if Ayd Mill was closed? That’s one that at least got alluded to in the article.

    BTW, Bill, there’s one history part you got wrong: Ayd Mill is a post-Interstate idea. It was part of an early 1960s city plan for a network of freeways across the city (much as a larger network was once proposed west of the river in that “other city”). Most of Ayd Mill was constructed in the early to mid-60s. Bridge data shows the bridge at Hamline (which, BTW, didn’t have a rail line crossing prior to Ayd Mill) was built in 1962…the bridge at Lexington built in 1964.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 4:49 pm #

      Well, you are the expert. My timeline begins in 1962: https://tcsidewalks.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-eternal-return-of-ayd-mill-road.html

    • Ben February 18, 2020 at 5:14 pm #

      I live 2 blocks from Lexington and take an average of 1.25 trips on Ayd Mill Road per week to get to and from South Minneapolis because it’s the most convenient and efficient route to 35E, which I take to 62 or 494 to South Minneapolis where my friends live. If Ayd Mill Road was closed, I would either take Lexington North to 94 to 35W or Lexington South to the Randolph entrance to 35E or all the way to West 7th.

      • Ben February 19, 2020 at 10:16 am #

        And to answer your initial question, I’m mostly fine with closing it. Lexington is already terrifying, and I don’t think adding more local traffic to it will make much of a difference.

        • Tom Quinn February 19, 2020 at 11:08 am #

          until about 15 years ago, Lexington between Grand and Randolph was two lane. In order to slow down the speed there was a big push by the neighborhood to reduce it to its present single lane. The city, of course, was adamant about it never working as a single lane road, but obviously they were wrong for the most part.

          Where it does cause a problem is for people who live on Lexington and have to back their cars out on to Lexington when there is a train of cars during rush hour. For them at least adding any more traffic would be a problem and closing AMR would certainly add some traffic.

          • Mike Sonn
            Mike Sonn February 19, 2020 at 11:18 am #

            Quick count has about 12 drive ways facing Lexington from Randolph to 94, with a majority of them being south of Jefferson. And all but a few of those have ample space to turn around at the end of the driveways. So are we going to not do something for < 4 driveways?

            • Peter February 19, 2020 at 11:26 am #

              Quick count on my morning commute on North Lexington, saw zero bicycles. So are we going to close/narrow a major road carrying 25,000 cars daily for zero bike riders? Suggest we apply consistent logic when making a decision.

              • Adam Miller
                Adam Miller February 19, 2020 at 11:27 am #

                Uh. Dude. The driveways don’t move.

              • Paul Nelson February 19, 2020 at 11:57 am #

                There is virtually no infra for the bicycle on Lexington between Grand and Minnehaha. No infra = no bikes.

                • Peter February 19, 2020 at 2:19 pm #

                  That’s why the City created the Griggs Street bikeway. It runs from Summit north all the way to Miinnehaha Ave, where you can get on a dedicated bikeway north to Como Park. There is a pedestrian/bike bridge over 94. It is much safer than Lexington. I know, as I ride it all the time (okay not in the winter).

                  • Paul Nelson February 21, 2020 at 8:59 pm #

                    The Griggs Street Bike way is using the Griggs street surface that is also used by car traffic. The car traffic packs the snow that turns in to ice pack and snow and ice potholes that cannot be plowed. A protected bike lane space like the one on Grand is plowed separately and there is not car traffic on it. This Parking protected bike lane on Grand has been in better shape than many of the residential streets throughout this winter. Same for the Midtown Greenway.

                    In the early 80s there was strong community support to build off road bike infra on Lexington between Grand and Minnehaha with the rebuilding of the whole street at the time. Nothing was done for the bicycle.

                    If there were protected bike lanes on Lexington or Griggs, you might be more inclined to bike in the winter.

                    • Peter February 21, 2020 at 9:18 pm #

                      If the City plowed all the streets as well as the bike lanes, I would definitely ride in the winter. But because of lack of funds the City only plows residential streets after a 4 inch snowfall. Perhaps instead of spending our limited funds on bikeways to no where, we should be providing basic services for all residents, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

                    • Paul Nelson February 21, 2020 at 10:15 pm #

                      It is very difficult for both Minneapolis and Saint Paul to plow the city streets comprehensively and promptly due in part to the many cars parked on the streets, which need to be moved to plow to the curb. Maintaining the “door zone” bike lanes is very difficult and cannot be maintained on a regular basis without moving the cars. Parking protected and buffered bike lanes are a solution and much easier to maintain.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller February 19, 2020 at 11:25 am #

            “Certainly?” No, not certainly. “[A]ny more” would be a problem? Literally one more car would be a problem?

            Also, aren’t we talking like 3-4 driveways?

          • Ben February 20, 2020 at 12:00 pm #

            They don’t have to back their cars out onto Lexington. They could turn around on their front lawn like the plebes.

    • Jerome Johnson February 19, 2020 at 12:15 pm #

      My recollection from old traffic studies is that volume on AMR at the Randolph end is about twice what it was – and probably still is – on the Selby end. That suggests, in turn, that if AMR is closed, volume through the Snelling-Selby intersection will drop by a modest amount but volume south of Selby on Snelling and then onto Randolph will increase. It also suggest that volume over Lexington north of, say, Grand will increase modestly but volume between St Clair and Randolph and then on Randolph to 35E will be way up. That will lead to increasingly saturated traffic signal cycles, increasing delays and driver frustration in that neck of the woods. That is when the neighborhood yellow vests will come out that are, these days, mostly silent.

      • Mike Sonn
        Mike Sonn February 19, 2020 at 1:15 pm #

        Lexington is still so far below the threashold of 4-3 (~25k ADT) that I don’t see how this will be an issue. The Randolph/Lexington intersection is rarely congested except at extreme rush hour (maybe 20 min in AM or PM) and by congested I mean you have to wait through 1, sometimes 2, light cycles. Nothing to write home about.

        I don’t know. Sure, people will be upset. But they get upset that someone parks in front of their house. I mean, at a certain point, we just need to start doing what is right and that follows all the plans and resolutions that the city says they believe in. They just passed CARP and my public comment, holding my 2 year old son, was to remind them that they have to do the hard work now of actually making these goals a reality. Here’s their first shot at that.

        • Peter Engel February 19, 2020 at 2:02 pm #

          Randolph is congested at Lexington. Your 20 minute congestion observation is ludicrous. From 3:30 until 6 traffic is regularly backed up beyond Edgcumbe heading east on Randolph. Most of which are cars exiting onto 35E South. Reducing Ayd Mill to one lane will exacerbate the situation. There are 25k cars using Ayd daily and they will need to go somewhere. Your dream of them disappearing isn’t happening anytime soon.

          • Tom Quinn February 19, 2020 at 2:08 pm #

            Peter, AMR is already single lane at each end. How would reducing the middle part make any difference?

            • Peter Engel February 19, 2020 at 2:13 pm #

              The best explanation I can give you, is the MNDOT promoting the “zipper merge”. By keeping cars in two lanes, the backup incurred when lanes narrowed is mitigated. Its a well planned traffic management technic by the experts. Also if you drive northbound AMR, a substantial number of vehicles exit at Hamline, which by the way has two left turn lanes to accommodate. At the south end, cars exit to Jefferson or 35E.

          • Mike Sonn
            Mike Sonn February 19, 2020 at 3:06 pm #

            I’ve lived in real cities before, traffic here is never “backed up” but shrug what do I know.

            Again, AMR is a single lane on both ends so the middle bulge just induces speeding which carries onto local streets by maintaining a ‘highway mentality’ of drivers.

            Any way you cut it, closing AMR isn’t on the table, sadly. If AMR was pulled from the current bonding package to be examined on its own, the city council would undoubtedly vote to keep it as a 4-lane configuration because it is easier to keep the status quo than make transformative change. Someone has to stick their neck out, as Mayor Carter did, to push the Overton Window and show this city that the sky will not fall. You’d think by now we’ve had enough examples of bike lanes and housing being built and we’re somehow still all alive and the sun continues to rise that we can stop with the hyperbole about lane reductions and adding people… alas, we’ll probably need several thousand more examples. AMR is just another in a long list of “this won’t hurt if we do it but everyone is acting like it is the end times” St Paul projects.

        • Adam Froehlig
          Adam Froehlig February 21, 2020 at 8:57 am #

          Given the frequency of local street & private access along Lexington, I’m not convinced that 25K is the appropriate 4-to-3 threshold. That said, Lexington south of Summit/Grand would meet lower thresholds.

          • Mike Sonn
            Mike Sonn February 21, 2020 at 9:43 am #

            Lexington ADT right now:
            Randolph-Jefferson: 12,200
            Jefferson-St Clair: 13,400
            St Clair-Grand: ~15,000

  20. Buster Thompson February 18, 2020 at 4:56 pm #

    The whole deal is bad.
    Killing off a 25k vehicles per day road was a dumb idea. Dumber idea was trying to spend this insane amount to not fix it. Ayd mill has groundwater issues but starks proposed disaster wouldn’t bother fixing the actual problem here.
    Closing ayd mill is even worse. Want to see more bodies on Kellogg and Lexington? Cause that’s what will happen if it is closed. What did we have, 3 already killed on Kellogg in the past 5 years?
    Lexington was able to go 4:3 due to reduced traffic from ayd mill. Now? We really wanna route that traffic across grand and central high school?
    The road should have been connected to 94. Grade separated roadways are safer for everyone and shouldn’t be used as a political chip for unelected officials to use to please their buddies. What an absolute boondoggle. Stark is making Carter look bad.
    P. S. The traffic doesn’t go away. People still need to go to work.

  21. James Frese February 18, 2020 at 5:03 pm #

    “Fortune favors the bold” – shut it down and if enough suburbanites complain, get the State to pony up for a portion of Mayor Carter’s original 2-lane conversion.

    If Mayor Carter really wants to cement his legacy (for better or for worse), he could emulate Chicago’s Mayor Daley who bulldozed the Meigs Field runways overnight in 2003.
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2011-04-30-ct-met-zorn-daley-moments-0501-20110430-story.html

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 18, 2020 at 6:18 pm #

      Nobody should emulate Mayor Daley (either of them).

  22. Greg McGraw February 18, 2020 at 5:05 pm #

    There is no way that Ayd Mill accounts for a third of the pothole repairs in St. Paul, unless they’ve gone back to filling 5 holes a day, as the city workers were caught doing years ago.

  23. Craig Gjerdingen February 18, 2020 at 7:14 pm #

    One lane, One-way exist to 35E, south bound, and the bike path. Or just close it.

  24. P. Carl February 18, 2020 at 8:01 pm #

    Close it now.
    And thanks for your always thoughtful work, Bill.

  25. Christa Moseng
    Christa Moseng February 18, 2020 at 8:34 pm #

    This is a great article, and thank you for writing it. It’s so critical to pursue creative approaches to “problems” like this—in order to realize that trying to recreate and perpetuate the mistakes of the past is the real problem.

  26. Andy Singer
    Andy Singer February 18, 2020 at 9:20 pm #

    I 100% agree with you Bill. You just have to convince Dai Thao, Rebecca Noecker, Chris Tolbert and the folks who are so obsessed with traffic congestion that even giving up one lane to bikes is an epic struggle. We got to this point because the mayor was proposing to repave the road as-is, with no bike accommodation. I have a hard time believing that any of those folks will go for a complete closure. They’d rather go into bankruptcy and a climate change apocalypse, clutching their steering wheels. But, by all means, give it a try. The bonding vote is in less than 24 hours …and, if it clears that hurdle, a public meeting and vote in early April.

    I have two corrections for you though. The first is that the city’s infrastructure liabilities are way beyond just transportation. There’s the sand rock sewer issue (brought up at Rebecca Noecker’s public meeting) of hundreds (or more) homes off of West 7th with decaying 100 year old sand rock sewers. There’s also 100 year old lead pipe issues (which are more wide-spread than folks think), plus sewer, drainage, property decay issues all over the city. …which only bolsters your argument. And, #2, the title of this piece is misspelled (which is driving my spouse insane). It should be “Straits” (not “straights”). 🤪

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 19, 2020 at 9:10 am #

      Yes. Apologies to Cara for the misspelling!

      TBH I’d rather we just spend the $3M to delay anything major on this for another 7-10 years at this point. By the time we’re in the year 2029, things will look at LOT different on the climate and transportation fronts. That’s a terrible option BTW.

      • Andy Singer
        Andy Singer February 19, 2020 at 11:58 am #

        By the year 2029, I may be dead. So I’d rather bike on it in the interim. The original figure was $3.2 million, BTW, but that didn’t include fixing the standing water on the road near Grand and some other spots …so the price tag now is almost $6 million but it’s not anything close to a “reconstruction” which would be tens of millions of dollars. Next year, thanks to inflation, that price tag will be $7 million or more (just for resurfacing the road and fixing one drainage issue). And, for 9 more years, if we JUST fix the road, it’ll remain exclusively for cars. I don’t want the city to spend a dime on it unless they’re putting bike and pedestrian access on it as part of the project. So I support including a bikeway. That’s what I will testify to tonight. The mayor and staff stuck their neck out for us and I want to grab that moment and establish a bikeway on that corridor and one less travel lane. In 9 years, it will make getting rid of another travel lane (or the entire road) seem more doable, even to car people. Streetsmn is a friendly audience. If you posted this article on Twincities.com, you’d get a very different response.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke February 19, 2020 at 4:10 pm #

          I will not do that. 🙂

          It bothers me that bikes are being used as a fig leaf for what is a larger fiscal and automobile/climate conversation.

          I also take great issue with the design suggested so far. I think there are cheaper and better ways to do this, but the faux-urgency is maddening. Why are we debating this with almost zero information on a city-controlled project with 100% city money?

          • Steve Subera February 19, 2020 at 4:39 pm #

            That’s a great summary in those two paragraphs, Bill.

            As to your question, if you’re really looking for an answer, blame Mayor Carter. We’re debating it because he sent Lantry to the council last week with a surprise new plan and backed the city council into a corner.

            • Bill Lindeke
              Bill Lindeke February 19, 2020 at 5:24 pm #

              Very frustrating. If I were on some sort of committee, council, or commission that was intended to approve or vet city transportation policy decisions, I’d be highly annoyed.

          • Andy Singer
            Andy Singer February 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm #

            We have lots of information. Just because you don’t have it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The original price tag was $3.5 million to just resurface the road. Then bike advocates demanded that the mayor to put a bikeway down there if he was gonna spend any money on the road. The Mayor came back with a bikeway proposal that cost $1.7 million. It would create paved pathways, curb cuts and crosswalks at all 5 exits– Selby, Hamline, Grand, Saint Clair, Jefferson where none currently exist plus 1.5 miles of resurfaced multi-use trail (originally on the two eastern lanes). Later some additional lighting was added to that which bumped the price up to $2 million. (Which, to me, seems about right). ….Unfortunately, Public Works didn’t have time to carefully look at this proposal so the mayor’s office hired a consultant in the fall and winter who looked at it an pointed out that: 1. if they didn’t fix some drainage issues around Grand Avenue, their resurfacing would last just a year or two at best; …and 2. that they were going to have to create left turn lanes on the western portion of the road at St Clair, Grand and Hamline (where none currently exist). This would require bumping out the road in those areas (into the median) and actually creating new gravel and concrete road-bed, which (alone) would add $2.3 million to the total cost. With drainage repairs, the resurfacing was now gonna cost $9.8 million. The council balked so they decided that they could keep the western or the two eastern lanes for cars, because it already had turn lanes and just give one lane to bikes/peds …and this saved them the $2.3 million and brought the price down to $7.5 million, for the resurfacing, drainage repairs, bike stuff (now over $2 million) and replacing ancient traffic lights (which would benefit bikes/peds because they’d have walk signs, plus crosswalks). That’s the deal. It happened quickly, but no one is trying to “Hide” information. That’s a Dai Thao line. I agree with you that I’d like to see the entire road closed …but that will never happen. Thao, Noecker, Tolbert won’t allow it …and the Mayor’s office won’t even SAY it. It’s a political fantasy. Meanwhile, we could get some bike and pedestrian access fairly quickly and I support that. This isn’t a final disposition of the road. It’s not a reconstruction of roadbed. it’s still just a mill and overlay that’ll last 10 years …but there will be a bikeway on it, whereas, when we started, there was gonna be none. We have all the information. It’s time to make a decision based not just on what we ideally want but what seems politically possible in the moment. I’d be grateful if you came to the next SPBC meeting to discuss this.

      • Jerome Johnson February 19, 2020 at 12:24 pm #

        Better yet, get Dakota County to ante up at least $2 million of the tab. You might be surprised at how well that is received down there. They need some time to buy as well.

        Thank you, btw, for this well thought-out and thought-provoking report.

  27. Lorri Burchett February 18, 2020 at 9:57 pm #

    Why don’t we build an quick exit from 94E to 35E South instead of the troublesome Marion/Kellogg half ass … detour… kind of… exit???

    • Mike Sonn
      Mike Sonn February 19, 2020 at 7:20 am #

      The elevation changes are the hindrance. That and the tangle of other lanes mixed in there. Also why there isn’t a NB 35E to WB 94 connection.

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer February 19, 2020 at 12:01 pm #

      There’s also an agreement, I believe, that MnDOT made with neighborhood opponents of 35E that they wouldn’t connect it to 94. I’ve heard mention of it at meetings and I think there’s something about it on the I-35E wikipedia page.

      • Adam Froehlig
        Adam Froehlig February 21, 2020 at 9:00 am #

        That “agreement” was one of the proposals put forth in the ’70s and ’80s. In the end, it was not part of the legal settlement. Had it gone through, 35E would not have even connected to 94 East. From a legal standpoint, there is nothing stopping direct ramps. What is stopping them is topographic, fiscal, and engineering.

  28. Michael Moore February 19, 2020 at 7:17 am #

    Great article. Very informative.
    The streets of St Paul are embarrassing and annoying to my suspension!!

  29. Tom Quinn February 19, 2020 at 9:21 am #

    Without substantial changes in bike infrastructure on each end of AMR there is little point in adding any kind of bike trail. For a bicyclist it really goes no where of use. That bike money can be better spent elsewhere.

    • Mike Sonn
      Mike Sonn February 19, 2020 at 9:35 am #

      The south end connects directly to the Jefferson bikeway. The north end can drop you on Hamline (which is a future bike way, probably in-street bike lanes) or Selby which gives you access to the A-Line (and kinda sorta Marshall Ave).

    • Andy Singer
      Andy Singer February 19, 2020 at 12:05 pm #

      The city is putting in a lot of housing at the north end at Selby and Snelling and those people have no car-free places to go– to bike, walk dogs or anything. They are surrounded by 4-lane death roads and I-94. As Mike Sonn says, an Ayd Mill trail would enable them to reach Hamline, Jefferson and Grand (a shopping district) without getting run over.

      • Steve Subera February 19, 2020 at 12:39 pm #

        I’ve lived a block off Snelling and very close to the Snelling/Selby intersection for 20 years and while you’re entitled to your opinion of that area I find it extremely exaggerated. No place to bike? You can easily get to Summit on side streets. Marshall has a bike lane and if you’re fearful, you can walk your bike a short distance on the sidewalk from Snelling/Selby.

        I haven’t found crossing Selby/Snelling to be dangerous. Once you’ve made it to the west side of Snelling, you can easily get to the river and the trails without worrying about anymore death roads. Or take the A line south to the 63 on Grand if you want to get to the shopping district.

        I like where I live, but the area isn’t perfect. It’s all about trade-offs.

  30. Joe February 19, 2020 at 9:22 am #

    I agree. When we had our apparently symbolic Union Park vote on what to do with Ayd Mill Road, I was pleasantly surprised with the support for Ayd Mill Road alternatives, but not with the beautification creep. Ayd Mill Road cuts through our relatively wealthy part of Saint Paul with pretty good amenities, and while every neighborhood should be safe (hence shutting down the Dakota County expressway with Starbucks kiosk), a lot of other neighborhoods need the road and bike funds more than we do. For bike options, I usually take Hamline down to Jefferson to get to the West 7th neighborhood, and I don’t think that would change with a bike path on Ayd Mill Road. The momentum for a green way extension would be nice, but still not worth the money. Unfortunately, the sense that I get is that the only way to get rid of Ayd Mill Road is to replace it, with another road or a bike path or something in between. I try to always frame the linear park concept as a “linear nature trail”. Just lower maintenance green space.

  31. John February 19, 2020 at 9:38 am #

    St. Paul should lobby the legislature to turn the road over to MnDot. Problem solved as far as the city is concerned. Using local roads as a replacement is not a reasonable option. That is a quality of life disaster. There was a vision of this road to connect it to I-94 years ago and that vision should be completed.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 19, 2020 at 10:55 am #

      OK but that’s never going to happen.

    • Joe February 19, 2020 at 11:53 am #

      You’re right; using local roads as a replacement isn’t a reasonable option. That’s why drivers, who make the decision as to what’s a replacement on their commute, will likely choose an alternative route or transportation method, shift driving times, reduce trips taken, consolidate trips, make more comprehensive housing decisions, or any of the other actions that reduce demand.

    • Paul Nelson February 19, 2020 at 12:03 pm #

      MnDot is many decades behind in workable roadway design. Worse, they do not have the funds to maintain what already has been built for cars. MnDot has been building motorway-only for over 100 years. Moreover, there simply is not any adequate user fee for the private car.

    • Brian February 20, 2020 at 5:57 am #

      MNDOT occasionally turns over state highways to counties. The catch is MNDOT usually rebuilds the highway before it is turned over. That means the counties aren’t taking on immediate liabilities to rebuild highways they just took over.

      The only reason to have MNDOT take this over is so MNDOT could spend tens of millions to rebuild it. At best it would be a number of years before MNDOT got around to rebuilding this road if they took it over as MNDOT budgets major road projects years out.

  32. Tom Quinn February 19, 2020 at 11:12 am #

    With all the options being suggested here, who specifically has the power to make a decision? Can Mayor Carter unilaterally do any of this? Can the St. Paul City Council? Does the state have veto power?

    • Matt Henseler February 19, 2020 at 3:19 pm #

      I’m wondering this myself. Should we contact our city council person? The mayor’s office?

      • Andy Singer
        Andy Singer February 20, 2020 at 5:09 pm #

        The mayor proposes spending and projects but the council has to approve them. Right now, the option being offered is the eastern most lane for bikes and pedestrians, with pathways at all 5 exits– Selby, Hamline, Grand, St Clair, and Jefferson, signals and crosswalks (to get to 3 of these exits) and some extra lighting. There will be public meetings in March and early April (a public hearing) where the Council will have to decide on this. You should write to them (particularly if you live in wards 1, 2, 3 or 7) …and show up and support it (in my opinion). If you can find an extra $2.3 million in the Saint Paul budget (or raise it from the private sector) you could have both eastern road lanes for bike/ped (as originally proposed) …but I don’t see the Council, mayor or anyone who is able to find this extra money.

  33. Mike Sonn
    Mike Sonn February 20, 2020 at 8:04 am #

    Just a little FYI for St Paul city officials, our climate and our fiscal tsunami won’t wait for endless process.

  34. Pete Kleinschmidt February 22, 2020 at 7:15 pm #

    “we can no longer afford to coddle suburban commuters with huge expenditures from the city’s tax base”

    Agree. Why does the City of St. Paul think it should be paying to construct and maintain a road that is essentially being used as a regional arterial highway? How is this road benefiting the citizens of St. Paul? In Minnesota MnDOT has responsibility for these types of roads, not local governments. If this type of road is really needed, the City should approach MnDOT and have them take it over.

    Of course the reality is MnDOT won’t have anything to do with it for the simple reason that it isn’t really needed. Even if, by some miracle, the neighbors could be convinced to allow the road to be connected to I94 I doubt MnDOT would even permit it to happen. The world has moved on. That road is no longer suitable for that purpose. It is functionally obsolete. There are now several other better maintained and better funded alternative routes.

    Clearly the first thing that should be done is to permanently sever the link to I35E. The City is under no obligation to serve the needs of suburban commuters who don’t contribute a dime to its upkeep.

    That said I do think the road would likely work well as a low volume local street. Personally I like the idea of keeping two lanes for local car traffic and converting the other two to a bike path. But no matter what is done, the road should be optimize for the needs of the local neighborhoods. Those who are just passing through belong on the freeways.

    • Jerome Johnson February 23, 2020 at 11:18 am #

      Somehow MNDoT has found it necessary to spend $300 million to merely update the connection of I94 and I35W in Minneapolis , which also has “alternative routes” that have been, in fact, deployed while construction is in effect. So, do not assume MNDoT will shy away from the commitment needed to connect I94 and I35E in St. Paul, especially if sufficient political heat is applied.

      What has to happen, though, is the City of St. Paul has to reach out to regional and state interests to make that happen and they have not done so, best I can tell. Is it pride? Is it fear? Or is it something they simply haven’t thought of? There is no question, though, that the City should NOT pay solely for such a connection. But there is also no question that taking out the I35E connection at the south end will punish St. Paul motorists, because if you buy into the traffic counts from a study done a few years back, about half the AMR vehicular counts entered or left AMR south of Selby. Much of that traffic would be back on Lexington and other neighborhood thoroughfares if AMR is closed.

      Means that City of St. Paul is still on the hook for some kind of rebuilt AMR, even if there is no state or regional interest in the I94 connection, just to keep nearby city streets more fluid. Seems then that the state funding a rebuilt AMR fully connected to I94 would be a good deal for the city, as it would pay for south end improvements too. Throw in a parallel bike trail and the deal gets even better.

  35. Mary Verness February 23, 2020 at 2:20 am #

    Look at a map of this area. That pathway should really be part of our Interstate system that connects 35E to 94W. Yes that means finishing the connection (probably around Hamline) of these two freeways. As this is an Interstate, the state picks up.the tab.

    • Paul Nelson February 23, 2020 at 5:37 am #

      Those structures are not “Freeways”, A much better term would be expenseways. There is no such thing as “the state picks up the tab”. We all are paying for this. What mode of travel do you expect to connect to 35E & 94, bicycles? 94 and 35 are not built for the bicycle, just automobiles. The private automobile should be paying for the infra it uses, but it does not pay anywhere near enough, just a tiny amount. No one wants to pay for the car paths anymore. They are too expensive. We need a new roadway system, not just for cars/

  36. Mary Verness February 23, 2020 at 11:39 am #

    Google freeway and interstate for help with definitions. Yes.. this is all auto traffic and yes roads cost money – freeways and interstates are not a cities responsibilities. In the end, society pays for it, it’s the type of road and it’s function that determines how it’s paid for.

    Then again, I think we could set up stops at the state lines of our major interstates and have anyone with a plate from a state that has poll systems pay money to get on Minnesota’s non-poll system. I hate paying for their roads when they don’t pay for ours. (Unfortunately this is just a dream.)

    • Paul Nelson February 23, 2020 at 1:31 pm #

      Google is not enough to understand the language we use. It was Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein that taught us that language is a method of communication, that if not used properly can become an obstacle to communication.

      The “all auto traffic” is a big problem for roadway design, especially within cities around the world. Congestion of auto traffic and crashes is the very real result. We have a big country so I would say that there is a reasonable application for the automobile, but car only to go everywhere, no. The I-94 and 35E motorways are located well within dense population areas. These are motorway-only roadway systems and no one can use these roads unless they are using an automobile. The distances of these roads within the cities and metro are relatively short, and these distances are well within the range of daily commute travel times for the bicycle. In fact the bicycle can compete or compare well with auto commute travel times in cities for various trips less than than 10 miles. The I-94 is circa 10 miles within the city of Saint Paul. It is a through way structure. If we had built these roadway systems right for walk and bike, not just for the car, we all would be in much better shape, literally as well as economically. The same issue applies to Ayd Mill. Ayd Mill was designed and built as a motorway only road. And Ayd Mill is extra costly to move automobile traffic on it.

      I don’t think setting up stops at state lines is a very good solution. A better system would be to utilize MnPass technology for motorway roads and systems. In this country the fuel tax is way too low to serve as a user fee, averaging 53 cents per gallon in the US. Other countries that use the fuel tax as a user fee average two to three dollars per gallon (most recent figures I have seen at present). There does not seem to be an appetite to raise the fuel tax in the US.

      If all of us knew and appreciated the real cost of automobile infra, then I think that would be a better basis for us to decide how we pay for it.

      I think the private car needs to pay more for itself everywhere in the US, and we need to stop building motorway-only roads and design our roadway systems so everyone can use them.

      The word Highway is a very old word. The definition of the word highway is “a public way freely open to everyone by high legislative intent forever”. Everyone should be able to use and walk or pedal drive a bicycle on our public roads and public ways.

      The Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis is a highway and a very public way that everyone can use within a green corridor and public parkway. ADT is about 5000 per day.

      What should we do with the Ayd Mill space. If we continue to move cars on it with the high expense, should we have a MnPass toll system for it?

  37. Nathanael March 3, 2020 at 9:02 pm #

    Demo it. Demo it. Demo it. Let the spring flow into the creek, like it wants to.

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