E-DEMOCRACY | St. Paul streets terrifying


From: Shannon O’Toole Date: 3:18am, Dec 06

Driving back and forth between St. Paul and Minneapolis this evening revealed no trace of salt on St. Paul streets characterized by washboard and glare ice. Intersections at Lexington at Summit and Grand at Victoria particularly dangerous. Minneapolis streets in Lowry Hill fantastic by comparison. Drive slowly!

Shannon O’Toole

From: Gail O’Hare Date: 5:23pm, Dec 06

Once again, I feel really let down by the city’s inadequate services.

Just before this mess, I saw workers putting pitiful patches on some of the worst of the endless potholes on Highland Pkwy. Highland, Hamline and other major arterials were skipped this year, although we did all that seal coating (often badly done) on side streets. Why? Major streets are in dreadful condition and winter is upon us.We had plenty of warning about the rain turning to snow turning to ice, but no one seems to have given a rip.

We moved here from N. Minneapolis 25 years ago and were astounded by the poor road maintenance, the every-man-for-himself alley plowing and garbage service, the perpetual whining about running out of salt and sand. Why do we put up with this?

Gail O’Hare

From: Jim Buscher Date: 7:03pm, Dec 06

I would be very curious to know exactly how many snowplow trucks St. Paul has, how many drivers, and miles of roads to plow versus what Minneapolis has, or other suburbs for that matter. Anyone know? Maybe Google does…

As to the lack of salt usage, at temperatures below 15 degrees F it doesn’t work. Knowing that the temp was going to go down right away after the snowfall, the city may have just decided to save it for later.

From: Jim Buscher Date: 7:04pm, Dec 06

And after just sending that message, I see a tweet from Mayor Coleman saying crews have spread 1500 tons of salt/sand and 6000 gallons of brine, and they’re still working.

From: mitch berg Date: 7:24pm, Dec 06

What? Complaints about the streets?

Sorry, folks – nobody who voted to re-elect the DFL machine that’s run this city for decades (but for a couple of dissident mayors) had best say a word. You had your chance to change things for the better a month ago.

And you blew it.

Not that I expect you (pl) to admit it, or learn your leason, much less take responsibility for it. At any rate, don’t blame me. I’ve never voted for anyone in power in this town.

By the way, my block’s alley – plowed by private contract – is clean enough to eat off of. We’re perfectly happy the city that can’t make our side streets passably passable isn’t working its dubious magic on our alleys.

The contrast can escape nobody who actually thinks about it.

Mitch Berg
The Midway

From: Mike Fratto Date: 8:24pm, Dec 06

I don’t think anyone elected can do much to change these issues, except to add money to the budget to add more services and equipment.

Of course, based on the comment below one can assume Mitch would prefer someone who would cut taxes and government services. Gee, I don’t know how to figure out how the candidates Mitch would support would be able to change what is happening.

I don’t know where you all live. I do know that where I live, it snowed quite heavily. It then rained very hard for quite a while. After the rain it snowed again. Then it froze. Yet the roads in my side of town are pretty good. Although, they were difficult to drive on during the snow, rain, and snow.

We have had this discussion almost every early winter. This is winter. Until the temperatures warm up chemicals that have been applied won’t work. I do wonder how the contractor that plows Mitch’s alley got it as clean as he claims. When and how often was the alley plowed?

I haven’t been able to get my sidewalks that clean and I first removed the snow shortly after the rain stopped and followed it with shoveling twice. Yet I have sand and chemicals on my walks and drives to keep from slipping.


From: Janna Caywood Date: 10:55pm, Dec 06

Wow. I gotta say, I find that confusing and alarming. I don’t understand why salt would be put down when it does no good in low temps? Is there no way to simply put down sand w/o salt when temps are this low? My fellow Como neighbors and I just learned that Como Lake has been added to the state’s list of lakes that are impaired due to excessive chloride. Maybe it’s time to start having some serious conversations about salt usage – especially using it when it can’t actually melt anything. The MPCA has a training program for road salt applicators that provides methods for reduced chloride impact. If St. Paul’s drivers haven’t gone through the training, maybe we should suggest this? Anyone know anything about this?

From: Elizabeth Karre Date: 11:22pm, Dec 06

It would be less terrifying if people weren’t so impatient with those of us without all-wheel drive. I’m sick of people swerving around me in one lane situations when I’m clearly moving and about to gain traction. I had to basically cut someone off because I got traction, shot forward a little and was approaching a hill. I knew if I braked, I would get stuck in the intersection. I honestly normally love the challenge of driving in the winter, but several people have just been so rude since the storm.

From: Susan Stewart Date: 11:40pm, Dec 06

Janna, et. al…

Methinks y’all know more than the average citizen regarding salt & low temps…

& I suspect you’re over thinking this one!

I would bet most of the people getting Mayor Coleman’s tweet, conveyed to us by Jim, said – “ok, good”…

& NOT – “salt? It’s too cold for salt!”

It’s politics using the vehicle of Twitter!

’nuff said.


Susan Stewart
Dayton’s Bluff

From: Janna Caywood Date: 12:04am, Dec 07

Actually, the only reason I know about the temperature thing regarding salt is I read it on a webpage this past week. And the reason I was reading up on this stuff is because my neighbors were pretty concerned when they heard Como Lake was now impaired due to chloride. They wanted some info on how to choose the least harmful de-icing chemicals for their sidewalks and stoops. Since I’m a block leader, I looked up some info to share. (BTW, here’s a great video I found, for anyone who wants to learn a bit on this issue:


You’d be surprised how many citizens do want to learn about this stuff once they realize it’s impacting something important to them – in our case, our beloved neighborhood lake. And one of the first questions that came up, once we started learning about this is wanting to know what the City’s practices are regarding road salt.

It’s a complex issue – keeping roads safe is very important, lives depend on it. And the same is true of keeping water resources free of salt (which can permanently poison water in enough quantities), lives depend on clean water too. So we have to find a balance somehow.

Therefore, I’d respectfully disagree. We’re not over-thinking it. We’re trying to be responsible citizens by learning about this stuff and doing our part to address it.

From: Michele St. Martin Date: 1:03am, Dec 07

Rob, Snelling north of 36 isn’t St. Paul, it’s Roseville. And that may be a county road… in any case, it’s either Roseville’s or Ramsey County’s responsibility, not St. Paul’s.

I have lived in both Minneapolis and St. Paul and frankly I can’t tell the difference in winter road treatment. They both do an awful job. Growing up, my Dad was the public works superintendent for a metro suburb. He was not just a paper-pusher: I remember him getting up in the middle of the night and going out on holidays to plow. The roads were always good. Granted a suburb is smaller, but I have to believe that the cities could do a better job than they do. I just slid through a stoplight on a major thoroughfare (Larpenteur), and I know that sand would have stopped this. I laid on the horn (and was rewarded with some charming hand gestures from oncoming traffic) as we slid. Just lucky that we weren’t hit, especially since I had my younger child in the back seat. We live in Como Park and there are many streets that haven’t been touched. The snow is packed down and there’s some ice under there. It’s a crap shoot as to whether you’ll be able to stop at a sign or light.

There’s really just no excuse. This is Minnesota and snow is going to fall and so is rain that turns to ice. If other cities and ‘burbs can handle these winter conditions, why the hell can’t St. Paul & Minneapolis?

Michele St. Martin

From: Steven Clift Date: 2:58am, Dec 07

From the city’s facebook page:

In response to those who have posted comments about the condition of the citys streets, Public Works asks for your patience. We are aware of the ice and snow buildup and are working with all that we have at our disposal to improve conditions.

Wednesdays storm was not an event that caught us off guard. We had been monitoring the storm patterns as early as last Sunday.

A few days prior to the storm we had treated the arterial and collector streets (streets that carry the heaviest traffic volumes) with brine solution (over 6,000 gallons) as a preventive measure, but that treatment was of limited value as the rain that initially fell washed much of this particular salt solution from the streets.

Beginning Tuesday night we then salted and plowed the arterials and collectors, work which continued throughout the day on Wednesday. We then shifted our operation to the residential streets with the snow emergency declaration at 9:00 that evening, and the residential plowing continued until 5:00 p.m. on Thursday.

The snow that fell heavy and wet on Wednesday was easily and quickly compacted. This condition was further compounded by the rapid decrease in air temperatures. Rock salt is limited in its effectiveness once the air temperature reaches ten degrees Fahrenheit.

We have been using a mix of salt and sand to address the icy conditions for the past 24 hours, but the treated salt that we have been using still needs direct sunlight to activate the melting process.

Since the beginning of operations this week we have distributed over 1,500 tons of salt and sand on the citys streets. We will continue our salting and sanding around the clock through the weekend, and longer if necessary.

Residents who have concerns about a particular road may contact our 24-hour Street Maintenance office at 651-266-9700, or email us at <email obscured>. Again we appreciate your patience as this is a difficult winter period, but know that we working to restore the streets to better condition.

via City of Saint Paul – Government’s Facebook Wall

Steven Clift

From: mitch berg Date: 9:21am, Dec 07


You note very correctly that those who “would cut taxes or government services” are odd ones to question why government services are done badly. And of course since our taxes have fallen, that’s certainly an issue.

Except our taxes haven’t fallen. They’ve actually risen astronomically in the past eight years.

Mike also points out that chemicals have problems in this weather, and that everyone’s going to have trouble clearing this kind of snow and ice.

Except if you drive to Roseville, or Woodbury, or Bloomington, or even large swathes of hapless Minneapolis, the roads are passable and safe, while here in good ol’ Saint Paul they’re a mess. Try this little experiment. Drive north on Snelling, or Lexington, or Dale. Note the bumpy twitchy feeling in your wheel, and the dread in your heart. Then cross Larpenteur, and watch those feelings disappear. Then try to figure out the difference. I’ll be back tomorrow to help.

Finally, Mike says elected officials can’t do anything about the the problem, except charge more taxes and buy more equipment.

Then why have them? In a one-party city, “elections” are really just a formality anyway. There really isn’t much point to having them, is there? The city’s legislative branch could easily be eliminated – perhaps just replaced with the DFL’s executive committee!…

No. The problem isn’t that elected officials can’t change things. It’s that THESE elected officials spend the exorbitant tax dollars they collect (from us, and from the rest of the state via Local Government Aid and other state money-laundering schemes) on fripperies like baseball stadiums and bike freeways and duplicate human rights commissions and “traffic calming” and useless trains and, in one of the coldest state capitols in the US, refrigerated ice rinks. Our taxes are very high (and, Dayton Administration promises notwithstanding, rising) and the quality of the services we receive for them seems to be dropping in proportion to what we pay for them.

Mike responded to my previous post with a red herring (Republicans don’t like good services!); the fact is, I would very much like government to “provide” less, and do its precious few legitimate jobs better for the money they get. What are a city government’s legitimate jobs? Police, fire, streets. Maybe a few parks and libraries. That’s it. For those, I’ll pay.

Build your own ice rink. Plow the roads.

Mitch Berg
The Midway

(As to my alley? Allow a guy a little hyperbole; I won’t *literally* eat off my alley. But no, the alley is clean, well-plowed (by a privately-contracted party), and more passable than either of my block’s side streets (I live on a snow emergency route, so the front of the block is moderately well-plowed). How does it happen? I don’t know. And I I don’t have to know. I pay for the job to get done (a very reasonable amount), and it gets done. Period. Sounds like voodoo, doesn’t it? Come on over, Mike; we’ll find out for together for ourselves – if the union will allow you to ask those questions and leave your knees unbroken, of course)

From: Joe Nathan Date: 3:26pm, Dec 07

I drove in Mpls and St. Paul yesterday and did not notice any significant difference – both not great. Among other things, I drove down Mississippi River blvd late yesterday afternoon in Minneapolis, into St. Paul. No difference between the two cities.

From: Martin Owings Date: 5:56pm, Dec 07

Gotta say here that Mitch makes some excellent points. Especially the part about taxes going up and services going done. Amd the part about how other surrounding cities seem to be doing a much better job at this. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican and party affiliation doesn’t really matter when you find your ass careening into another vehicle because the City of StPaul can’t get the basics right.

Fix the damn problem Saint Paul.

From: David Rasmussen Date: 9:30pm, Dec 07

I appreciated Michele’s comments since my step-father used to wait for phone calls at all hours of the day and night as one of his jobs was doing snow plowing for a city. Doing it right requires crews who start work whatever time of day is necessary– art and science. Whomever was in charge and paying attention to the weather reports had a bad day. Late Wednesday afternoon was the critical time with this storm. I’m lucky I shoveled my sidewalk then. The city focused on the over-night hours (after everything had frozen solid) per their Facebook page comments that Steve Clift posted here.

It seems that in decades previous, rising to the challenge and getting the snow removed so that people could drive to work used to be more of a point of pride. I hope it is a priority this year. But, getting it right is not easy.

From: Mike Fratto Date: 10:10pm, Dec 07

I don’t know what difference it would have made if my street was plowed approximately the same time I cleared my walks. I do know that with the miles and miles of streets in the city there is no way all of them can be cleared in a short period of time. That is why St. Paul has the Snow Emergency plans.

Beginning a Snow Emergency at 9:00 in the evening makes sure that people can get home from work and move their cars from the streets. If you think our roads are bad now, imagine how bad they would be if plows had to maneuver around vehicles in the street.

I don’t know how the city could have done a better job. I do know that I have traveled St. Paul, Maplewood, North St. Paul and White Bear Lake neighborhood streets as well as the main roads through them. Here is what I saw: Roadways plowed by different municipalities looked the same; High traffic roadways generally had areas where the pavement was clear marked by patches of ice; Sections of the roads that were exposed to middle day sun were generally clear ice and dry; Sections that had the sun blocked generally had packed ice.

I also noticed that sections of roadway that others have complained about weren’t as bad as the complaint. I suspect some of this is due to the delay in using that section of road or maybe I have a higher tolerance for what can be done.


From: Susan Stewart Date: 2:02am


I think we don’t have to look way back to the year of the infamous Halloween blizzard for an example of a winter when the roads never got to be halfway decent, for the entire winter… (although I was living in Shakopee back then, so I really don’t know how bad it was here back then…)

2010/11 was a winter of pretty darn horrendous driving conditions here in St. Paul – from what I remember!

Of course we had A LOT of snow that winter… if forecasts for snowfall for this winter hold true we maybe in for a quick repeat of three years ago. :-/

And this hasn’t been a good start. My sidewalks are horrendous, it’s a very difficult situation w/the snow/rain/snow = ice + below zero temps we’ve had & IDK how much we can expect?!?!?

Discussions with the intent to inspire solutions doesn’t hurt. There’s been some good suggestions here (poultry grit! 🙂

But IDK if we can really expect to find any real solutions… perhaps we need to pray for a miracle!

Comparing Mpls streets to St Paul Streets is, in my mind, like comparing apples to oranges. MPLS streets are mostly FLAT and they are mostly all laid out in a neat grid pattern.

St Paul is anything BUT – on both counts!!!

Bring MPLS’ crew & resources (@ a proportional percentage) over here & I suspect they’ll get the exact same results we’re experiencing now.

Unfortunately St Paul, due to the hills & how streets are laid out, is a different beast altogether & although we can perhaps do better, resources used to address our streets need to take full account of the unique challenges the physical layouts & grades of our streets present.

IDK. That’s just my thoughts as I’m reading this thread… feel free to disagree w/me!

(Lol. j/k on the suggestion we pray for divine intervention – I’m not trying to turn this into s religious debate!)

Susan Stewart
Dayton’s Bluff

From: John Gaylord Date: 5:09pm

Lots of variables go into snow/ice removal – sequence/frequency of storms, timing, time of day, day of week, temperature (before, during, after), budget, etc. Minneapolis’ approach to street clearing may have done a better job this time, but there are many times when the situation is reversed. The suggestion that St. Paul will adopt Minneapolis ‘best practices’ is unworkable.

This is very low on the voters’ list of priorities – so the suggestions that we ‘demand results’ (‘Fix the damn problem Saint Paul’) won’t help. We could divert substantially more budget to this department. That’s something I’m in favor of.

From: Pat Byrne Date: 7:51pm

I have worked for the City – Public Works. Both of them. If you can find Minneapolis’ ‘work practices’, best or otherwise, let me know.

I’ve worked in both cities and driven in both and observed performances in both. I like the results in St. Paul. Especially the 24 hours and we’re done.

Neither of them is perfect unless you assume doing what they think is the best you can is perfect.

I’d suggest slowing down, relaxing, smoke a cigarette, have a coffee, chew some gum, stay off your phone, play some nice music, leave ten minutes earlier.

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