Pierce Butler Route will not be extended into St. Anthony Park


Some St. Anthony Park neighbors have expressed concerns about plans for extending Pierce Butler. I want to share what I know to allay those fears: Neither the city nor the state legislature has plans to extend Pierce Butler to the west through St. Anthony Park.

Years ago, I was involved with helping plan what is now the Great Northern Corridor Business Park (east of Dale, south of Front and north of Minnehaha). Two industrial sites, including the Maxson Steel site, were polluted and blighted for many years. Now there are good jobs on the site, and improvements to the south portion are underway.

I worked to obtain state dollars to clean up the brownfields and participated in the planning. We had a University of Minnesota team that worked with neighborhood residents to revitalize the area. Part of their vision related to Pierce Butler Route.

Pierce Butler East curves around the West Minnehaha Rec Center and comes to an awkward end at Minnehaha near Dale. The neighborhood plan straightens out Pierce Butler, aligns it next to the tracks, sends it under Dale and continues it east to Pennsylvania Avenue, the Phalen Corridor and 35E. This would make it more useable as a regional transportation route and take truck traffic off Minnehaha, which is a residential street. This is the Pierce Butler East plan.

At some point during these neighborhood discussions, there was talk of extending Pierce Butler to the west to connect with I-94 or 280, but it was just talk. Such an idea goes way beyond the scope of the small area plan for the North End/Frogtown neighborhoods.

Under Mayor Kelly the city decided to pursue the Pierce Butler East plan and seek state bonding dollars in the 2006 legislative session for the Minnehaha/Dale part of the extension.

This would have been necessary for the proposed Kroc center — a private donation of millions of dollars for a state-of-the-art recreation center — which would have been a huge asset to Frogtown.

Another city request was for a comprehensive study of the west end of St. Paul — Marshall to Pierce Butler and Snelling to the city border — to determine transportation needs, improve economic development around University, and address changes in traffic patterns during and after light rail construction. We didn’t get this money, but Public Works is able to start the study.

Because I represent St. Anthony Park and North End, I listened to concerns from both. Sen. Sandy Pappas, who now represents the Great Northern Corridor area, Rep. Alice Hausman and I talked this over when the city brought the bonding request to us. We agreed it didn’t make sense to go forward until the transportation study was done and in the face of any neighborhood opposition.

There is strong support in Frogtown and its neighbors for the Pierce Butler East plan. It’s in several comprehensive plans and will lead to jobs and affordable housing.

I don’t believe the Pierce Butler East plan would negatively impact St. Anthony Park.

However, I understand that St. Anthony Park residents are concerned it would lead to a westward extension. The evidence of a westward plan was at a District 12 meeting last fall, which I attended. Mayor Kelly’s public works person showed the city’s map with a tentative line drawn right through the community garden in south St. Anthony Park — clearly unacceptable.

I have checked with Mayor Coleman’s administration and they state clearly that no Pierce Butler West proposal exists. Research is being done on the future transportation needs of the area. The plans on the east end are totally independent of the west end.

We need to plan for a neighborhood-based transportation system that will support future population growth in a sustainable manner. St. Anthony Park residents are leaders in this goal. As your state senator, I am committed to citizen participation in this process.

Enhancing neighborhood livability has always been a high priority for me. That’s why I’ve worked hard for sound walls along Highway 280, for lower property taxes, better public school funding, reducing coal plant emissions, zoning gun shops out of residential neighborhoods, and public transit to reduce our automobile and fossil fuel dependence.

I look forward to continuing this dialogue and welcome your point of view.

Sen. Ellen Anderson has represented District 66 in the Minnesota Senate since 1992. She can be reached at ellena@senate.mn or 296-5537.