‘I just want it to stop’: constant speeding on Concordia Avenue in St. Paul

I live pretty close to the I-94 freeway in St. Paul and have long been interested in slowing speeding traffic near the onramps and “frontage roads” along I-94. (See my article from two years ago on “Rethinking I-94,” specifically the part about on- and off-ramps.) So when I saw on Twitter that one of my neighbors had gone out to Concordia Avenue with a speed gun, I needed to know more about their effort. This is the kind of quixotic cause I can get behind!

I reached out to April King to chat the other day, and here’s what we discussed:

Concordia Avenue by an on-ramp. Photo by Bill Lindeke, c. 2018

Bill Lindeke: So how did you end up conducting your own speed study on Concordia Avenue?

April King: I live over in Midway right across from the [soccer] stadium. I’m divorced, and my ex lives right on Concordia. I’m frequently bringing my kids over to her place. They’re frequently out and around the house. I have to get them out of my car on Concordia and bring them into the house. I get scared every single time I open that door, because cars just go. 

Bill Lindeke: Yes, that road is terrible. Can you talk about Concordia, the former Rondo Avenue? It’s a one-way street next to I-94 with two lanes and parking, and lots of on- and off-ramps. What’s the street like for someone who hasn’t been there?

April King: I try very hard to drive the 25 mph speed limit on that road, which is extremely hard even for somebody who wants to. I’m usually doing 25-30, and people are blowing by me constantly. People are completely flying by. It makes me so scared to open my left door and get my daughter out. I thought, I don’t know who owns this road, but I’m pretty sure they don’t know how fast people travel on it or they don’t care, or both. 

See the whole Twitter thread.

Bill Lindeke: So a few months ago, you borrowed a radar gun and did your own speed study. What was that like?

April King: I was there for two hours. It took me a few weeks to find the right day. I wanted to find a day when the weather was nice, when it was clear outside. I started at 7:45 in the morning and ended my study at 9. During that time, my goal was to reach 100 cars. 

Bill Lindeke: I’ve done this too, though I can’t seen to find my radar gun at the moment. Did you feel weird sitting there getting speed measurements on the side of the road? I know I did.

April King: These guns use a lot of AA batteries. People give you really dirty looks when you’re measuring them as they travel by. I had a person come and yell at me. I was at a sidewalk, and it surprised me how angry people got.

Bill Lindeke: Yes, that sounds about right. So, what would you do to fix the street? 

April King: The biggest thing is, just make it one lane. I looked at MnDOT stats on how many cars use that road per day, and it’s below the threshold for a two-lane road. That part of Concordia is just residential housing and crosswalks to go to parks and crosswalks to walk across 94. It should be one lane with bump outs, whatever it takes to get people to feel cramped and want to drive 25 mph. I don’t think it’s remotely fixable just by having signs up. 

Bill Lindeke: Is there anything else we need to know about? What is the takeaway with this terrible street? 

April King: The thing that surprised me the most: I had a pretty reasonable standard of deviation of the speed people were traveling. The speed limit is 25, and the average speed is 37, which is 12 mph faster. But the standard deviation is quite high. People like me who try really hard to drive slower, well — the slowest speed ever was 27, still faster than the speed limit. That shows how hard it is to travel on the road. You have to force yourself not to touch the accelerator.

The fastest I saw was 57 mph. My Honda Civic was shaking when they drove past. It scared the shit out of me. There’s no chance they would be able to see a pedestrian. If my kids kicked a ball onto the street and went to get it, there’s zero chance that car would be able to stop.

I just want that to stop. I saw a school bus go 36 mph down the road. And a UPS driver go 37. If school bus drivers who are carrying children are driving 11 mph over the speed limit, what hope does everyone else have?

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.