A proposed Raymond Avenue traffic-calming project that would stretch from University to Hampden avenues in south St. Anthony Park will be reviewed by the St. Anthony Park Community Council at its regular board meeting Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m.
If the council approves the project, it could be voted on in November by the St. Paul City Council.
The $2.1 million project would narrow parts of Raymond, add bump-outs to decrease the length of pedestrian crossings, add new pedestrian crossings and medians, eliminate some on-street parking and add new lighting, sidewalks and curbs. Construction would begin in 2013 and take three to four months to complete.
The project would be funded through the city’s Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) and a $1 million federal grant awarded by the Metropolitan Council.
If the project is approved, property owners along the project route will be assessed $153,000 for the grading, paving and lighting on the street. That amounts to $2,495 for a 50-foot parcel. Property owners could choose to pay the assessment up front or stretch it over 20 years at 4.75 percent interest. Payments would begin at $272.16 the first year and decrease each year as the principal is paid down.
“The goal [of the project] is to make the corridor safer for pedestrians and for everyone,” said Lauren Fulner-Erickson, District 12’s community organizer.
But some area business owners are concerned that the project will take away already limited street parking and create more disruption for construction-weary merchants.
Sandy Jacobs of Update Co., which leases office and warehouse space in the area, said she’s concerned about the scope and the timing of the project, as it comes on the heels of the Central Corridor light-rail construction project.
Patty George’s shop, Salon George at 856 Raymond, is on the block that stands to lose street parking on the west side, between Long Avenue and the Bradford-Ellis intersection. George said that taking away parking makes it harder for people to get to businesses. “And when it’s not easy to get to businesses, they will go away,” she said.
“If we could just keep the two-sided parking on our block it would make a world of difference,” she said. “I think there’s a way to do it to make everyone happy.”
There are a number of apartment buildings in the area that depend on off-street parking, George said, and with light rail coming into the neighborhood, she worries that the demand for on-street parking will increase. “Raymond Avenue will be a thoroughfare. People are going to drive into our neighborhood and get on the light rail—and they will be biking too—but this is Minnesota. This is a town of cars. It’s going to be a long, long time before we get to the point of having no cars.”
Susan Peterson, who lives across the street from the salon, says the project “is a great idea.”
“It will be nice to have a bike lane, new street lights for brighter streets, safer crosswalks (I walk to the bus everyday),” Peterson said.
She welcomes restricted parking on the west side of the block between Long and Ellis-Bradford because it would make it easier for homeowners to move in and out of their driveways. Parked cars frequently block the driveways, particularly in the winter, she said.
“There is parking on both sides of Territorial Road and it is never full. All in all we are only losing about 15 parking spots.”
The plan to rework the street began in October 2004, when the District 12 Community Council held a public meeting at which residents expressed concerns about traffic and pedestrian and bicycling safety. Residents told stories of motorists taking curves too fast, particularly in the winter, and landing in their yards or hitting fences and trees.
John Siqveland, who lives in the 800 block of Raymond Avenue, joined the Raymond Avenue Traffic-Calming Task Force shortly after witnessing a dramatic crash in front of his home. He and his wife had just walked out of their house carrying their infant son in his car seat, when a car swerved around the curve at Long Avenue and crashed into their parked car.
“The previous owners had cars up on the lawn, the stone wall was hit, trees were hit,” he said. “It was universal. It wasn’t just us.”
In August 2006, 45 people attended a meeting at South St. Anthony Recreation Center where ideas were presented for three Raymond Avenue intersections: Gordon, Hampden and Bradford.The Gordon and Raymond project was expedited in 2007, after a woman pushing an infant in a stroller was hit by a car in a crosswalk at the school crossing there. Siqveland said the money to add a median to that area came out of then Councilmember Jay Benanav’s own budget.
After a November 2006 public forum, the task force submitted a proposal to the city to rework the area of Raymond between University and Hampden. Task force members were told that a successful capital improvement budget request could take up to five years to implement.
It’s now five years later.
The task force has met intermittently since its formation. It reconvened in December 2010 to finalize a plan to send to the District 12 council in hopes it would be approved and sent on to the City Council for final approval.
Construction was initially proposed to begin in 2012, but after several meetings with area stakeholders the start date has been pushed to 2013.
News about property assessments didn’t come to light until this summer, which upset many residents and business owners. Paul St. Martin, assistant city engineer, said he takes the blame for the miscommunication. Raymond is a county road and in the past city property owners were not assessed for improvements on county roads. That policy has changed.
The task force held a community meeting in June to review the project. When word of the assessments hit, the Community Council hosted another public meeting with city engineers Aug. 8.
Some details of the plan were changed after that meeting to address property owners’ concerns. Here is a breakdown of the current plan:
- Curb lines and parking will not change from University to Territorial Road. The street will be restriped and bump-outs will be added at all four corners of the Territorial Road and Raymond intersection.
- Parking will continue on both sides of the street from Territorial to the Ellis-Bradford intersection. Bump-outs will be added at Ellis.
- Ellis and Bradford will be realigned. Currently, both streets come together to intersect at Raymond, creating a large pedestrian crossing. Bradford would be realigned to Ellis and Ellis would intersect with Raymond. The realignment would require the city to acquire some land from a townhome association at that intersection. If the city’s real estate division and the association can’t agree on the land acquisition, then that part of the project will be reviewed.
- The project calls for bike lanes to be added between the Ellis-Bradford intersection and Long Avenue. That block is the only part of the avenue that at present does not have bike lanes. Parking will be permitted on the east side of the street only.
- The intersection at Long and Raymond will be narrowed and Long will intersect with Raymond just south of the curve at that point of the road.
- From Long to Hampden Avenue, three medians will be added along Raymond with space to allow cars to turn into Bayless Avenue and the Hampden Park Food Co-op parking lot.
- Bayless Place will be extended to meet Raymond Avenue, and the intersection at Bayless Avenue and Raymond will be removed.
- The metro transit bus bay at the northwest side of Hampden will move to the southwest corner of Hampden and Raymond.
- The island at Hampden and Raymond will be enlarged and landscaped.
- The project will include reconstruction of the water main, new sidewalks and new street lights. The lights will be the lantern-style lamps similar to those installed in north St. Anthony Park in the last decade.
Raymond Avenue was built in 1923 and, other than a new overlay of asphalt in 1956, 1982 and 2000, no work has been done on it since it was built, said St. Martin. The original pavement is nearly 90 years old.
If the Community Council approves the project Sept. 8, the city will host a meeting in mid-October before the proposal goes before the City Council. The time and date for that meeting have not been determined. Property owners along the project route will receive a mailing from the city announcing the meeting details.
After that meeting, the city will host a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 2, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 15 Kellogg Blvd. The City Council could vote on the project at the end of November.