St. Paul residents got another look at the Bike Walk Central Corridor Action Plan when the current draft was informally re-released on October 6. They have had since the spring to review draft forms but the time to make comments that could really change the document before it goes to the City Council is coming to an end.
Emily Goodman, member of the Planning and Economic Development (PED) Staff Advisory Group at the City of St. Paul, said “public opinion is definitely still shaping the plan; we’re still receiving comments, and comments that we anticipate making changes based on.”
Goodman said the “less intense and less official but also more pliable period is right now, when people can send in comments to us and we’re actively, as staff, editing the draft.” She added, “Staff won’t be able to make any changes once the public hearing draft is released,” which will probably happen at the end of November. Then people can submit emails or letters to become part of the official record for 30 days leading up to a public hearing during a city council meeting, where citizens can also be heard. The city council is expected to officially adopt the plan at a meeting near the end of December or early in January 2010.
The plan proposes a multitude of small projects throughout St. Paul to enhance the biking and pedestrian experience. The pedestrian proposals mainly suggest widening sidewalks or adding them where absent, additional lighting, improving bridges and methods of approaching them and other strategic crosswalks.
The major biking proposals include choosing north/south routes to access future light rail stations and east/west routes like Fuller and Charles as alternatives to biking on University Avenue. University Avenue, now a wide and direct route between Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, will not have bike lanes once the Central Corridor is in place.
The plan proposes two off-road bike paths, similar to the Midtown Greenway. One would connect the St. Anthony Greenway to Pierce Butler and then an off-road trail would go from the end of Pierce Butler to eventually connect to Phalen. A second path would run from the planned Midtown Greenway extension into St. Paul, then along Ayd Mill Road and connecting to Summit.
There are very few dedicated bike lanes suggested.Most of the plan’s priorities call for on-street markings designating shared streets and additional signage indicating suggested bike routes. The signs and markings have been used in other areas of St. Paul and Minneapolis as a way to remind drivers that bikers may share the road.
Many parts of the plan call for “sharrows,” shown in the photo at left. According to the plan, “Sharrows use a bike symbol and arrow graphic to mark pavement and to indicate a shared bike-vehicle route. Sharrows are intended to help cyclists better position themselves on roadways where bicycle lanes are the recommended treatment, but which cannot be striped for varying reasons. Sharrow symbols also raise awareness of the route for bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Though the plan has been relatively well received, both the public and local organizations have raised issues over specific proposals.
Where did the plan come from?
Funding for the plan was provided by Bike Walk Twin Cities and Transit for Livable Communities. It catalogs the current bike and pedestrian environment in the areas that will be affected by the installation of the Central Corridor light rail transit line from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis. Then it sets forth a plan to “enhance biking and walking to and within the Central Corridor and foster bicycling and walking as a major portion of the transportation solution.” It focused on five objectives; improving connectivity, enhancing safety, improving the bike/walk experience, fostering creative solutions and being both functional and feasible.
The plan poses long-term goals but contains an entire section of priorities that include workable solutions and near-term changes until funding becomes available for major projects like building bridges.
In formulating the plan, staff used a website, stakeholder roundtable discussions, newsletters, an online survey and a public open house to display the draft and solicit community feedback.
They also got out and rode many of the routes themselves and created a Facebook page. To see what people are saying now, they are attending community meetings and monitoring websites like mplsbikelove.com
For more information, or to comment on the plan, contact:
Some organizations that have information about biking in the Twin Cities include:
Renee Lepreau, community organizer with the St. Anthony Park Community Council (SAPCC), said that posts on their neighborhood listserv raised fears about a proposed Pierce Butler Route Extension becoming a truck route. In response, PED representative Christina Morrison spoke at the SAP Environment Committee meeting and provided a statement for the listserv that the goal is an off road trail for bikes and pedestrians.
Lepreau said, “I think that it’s been clarified. We do remain very concerned about a Pierce Butler truck route, but I think this is coming from a separate department of the city with separate intentions that would be a good thing for the neighborhood.” She also said that no formal decision has been made but she thinks the SAPCC would support an off-road bike path connection.
At other neighborhood meetings, St. Paul residents raised fears about the effects of bikers traveling on Jefferson Avenue between downtown and River Road. Goodman said she was aware of the issue because she lives in the area, but “it’s not something we have heard re-articulated in any comments we’ve gotten about our bike/walk plan.” She added, “I’ve also heard that the meetings are becoming more balanced and more bike advocates are showing up and more people are listening and rethinking their perspective. We’re optimistic that the project will be able to move forward.”
Steve Clark, Bicycling and Walking Program Manager for Transit for Livable Communities, called the plan, “a collaborative effort on the part of many stakeholders and organizations and has, I think, a lot of good features,” but said, “I think there continues to be a concern that the plan perhaps doesn’t adequately address the potentiality of bike lanes on University Avenue itself.”
The plan for University Avenue is to have light rail transit and two lanes of vehicle traffic, including trucks and buses in either direction, adhering to the state standard of 12-foot-wide lanes. Clark pointed to Broadway in Minneapolis as an example where a variance to the standard was allowed. He said some sections of that truck and bus route are 10 feet wide, and others only 8.5 feet wide. He said that if University Avenue had a variance allowing 10 foot wide traffic lanes, it would allow space for a bike lane going both directions.
Goodman called bike lanes on University Avenue the main point of contention that the biking community has with the plan. She explained, “We did not make the road programming decisions, so it’s a decision that’s been made, it’s been set…unfortunately that’s just not something the city is able to control and it’s not something that’s going to be able to be changed about the bike/walk plan.”
“It was the Met Council and Minnesota Department of Transportation’s decision because it’s their domain,” Goodman continued, adding, “In a way, actually, the bike/walk plan is a response to that decision because it’s saying…this is a problem, we need to come up with some really good alternatives to get people through the corridor.”
Although the Bike Walk Central Corridor Action Plan might not even get adopted by the City Council until January, Transit for Livable Communities has already provided funding for part of the outlined Griggs Street priority. Clark explained that, “typically it would need to be adopted but…it had enough support in terms of both making a case for this to improve north/south connections as well as support from stakeholders that we felt that we could make a sound investment.”
As for the rest of the plan, Clark said, “when the new transportation bill is authorized I’m sure there’ll be additional opportunities for bike/walk projects. In the past those have been funded through projects for the Met Council.”