District 12 council gives nod to Raymond Avenue project, Oct. 12 community meeting is next step

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After two hours of listening to comments from local business owners and residents at its Sept. 8 regular meeting, the St. Anthony Park Community Council voted 9–4 to approve a proposed Raymond Avenue traffic-calming project that would stretch from University Avenue to Hampden Avenue.

The plan will be presented at a public meeting Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Langford Park Recreation Center, 30 Langford Park.

A public hearing before the St. Paul City Council 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 by the end of November.

Nearly 30 community members came to the Sept. 8 meeting to comment, mostly negatively, on the project. If approved by the City Council, that stretch of Raymond Avenue stands to lose about 51 parking spaces, according to Paul St. Martin, assistant city engineer. Construction would begin on the project in 2013 and would take three to four months to complete.

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; add new lighting, sidewalks and curbs; and add a bike lane on the west side of the block between Bradford-Ellis intersection and Long Avenue.

Patty George’s shop, Salon George at 856 Raymond Ave., is on that block, which would also lose street parking on the west side, which is mostly residential. Taking away parking makes it harder for people to get to businesses, George said. “And when it’s not easy to get to businesses, they will go away.”

A number of residents expressed concerns that parking needs would increase with light rail as commuters from outside the neighborhood would be driving into the area to catch the train.

Brian Longley, a longtime community council member who voted against the project, said at the meeting that he thought the plan could be improved. An avid bicycler who uses Raymond Avenue to commute to work each day, Longley said that when efforts to calm traffic on Raymond Avenue began a number of years ago “light rail was not on our radar and neither was the increase in bicycling.” He said he was sensitive to the loss of parking and the impact light-rail construction has had on businesses at Raymond and University.

Steve Mastey, a member of the council whose business, Landscape Architecture Inc., is in the same building as Salon George, is very much in favor of the project. Mastey was a member of the Traffic Calming Task Force, which initiated the project in 2004, when it began.

Back then, residents came to the task force meetings expressing concerns about children trying to cross Raymond from the east side to get to Hampden Park or the recreation center, Mastey said. “The main reason we started this is neighbors identified Raymond as dangerous,” he said. “We went to the city and begged them to do this. We are really excited that this is happening.”

City engineers presenting the plan at the meeting said that Raymond Avenue eventually would be rebuilt whether or not this project is approved. The original pavement on the street is nearly 90 years old and the area has a history of water main breaks, St. Martin said. The city could work on sewer issues while the street is torn up.

Had the community council not approved the plan, the project would still go before the City Council, St. Martin said.

Plans to rework the street began in October 2004, when a public meeting was held and residents expressed concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety. A task force was formed and in 2006 a proposal was submitted to the city to fund the project through the city’s Capital Improvement Budget (CIB). The budget request was approved in late 2010 and the city was awarded a $1 million federal grant by the Metropolitan Council for the project.

If approved, property owners along the project route will be assessed $153,000 for the grading, paving and lighting on the street. That amounts to $2,616 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 $285.36 the first year for 50 feet of property and decrease each year as the principal is paid down.

Here are the details of the proposed project:

  • 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. The city has proposed a second configuration that would have Bradford and Ellis connect to Raymond as two separate outlets.
  • 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.