Re-envisioning the Smith/Dodd intersection

This year, the city of West St. Paul is convening an advisory committee to discuss options for realigning the Smith/Dodd intersection – a confusing knot of three arterial streets and multiple curb cuts and driveways.

The process is looking not just at the intersection but surrounding land use and zoning, and helping to envision what the area will look like long term. The group is incorporating recommendations from the 2010 Smith Avenue Revitalization Plan (three of the former task force members are also on the current committee).

Most visibly, the process will make recommendations for the city-owned 1010 Dodd property, the former auto repair shop on the southwest corner of Smith and Dodd. It may be absorbed into the street grid or redeveloped as commercial or park space.

Here, briefly, is more information about the process:

What’s wrong with the intersection as it is?

The two main problems are that it can be confusing and difficult to access businesses and that the intersection is particularly dangerous for pedestrians. It’s all subjective, but most people I’ve talked to who walk in the area say they’ll jaywalk midblock rather than take their chances at the crosswalk, where drivers often make turns on red lights at high speed.

Who’s on the committee?

The group includes some area residents, representatives from businesses including the Doddway shopping center, Zak’s Auto Repair, Camelot Cleaners, the Cherokee Tavern and Amore Coffee, and Ward 3 council member John Bellows and planning commission chair Morgan Kavanaugh.

I’ve heard there’s going to be a roundabout. Will there be a roundabout?

Possibly – that’s only one of the design options under consideration. A recent meeting explored the idea of dramatically remodeling Doddway and replatting the streets entirely – something that probably won’t happen because it would be considerably expensive. It’s also possible the intersection won’t be changed at all.

The process is not to choose between roundabout and not-roundabout, it’s to help city staff and engineers understand what the community regards as most important. That includes safety, preserving parks/open space and existing businesses, access to businesses, etc. So the end result will (hopefully) be a design that incorporates all of those concerns.

What about Albert Park or the Scott Patrick memorial?

Some design concepts relocate Albert Park while others keep it in its existing location. All of them include public/open space that could be used for a memorial for Officer Patrick.

When can we expect to see some changes?

Years from now, if ever. The project depends on unidentified future funding, and will likely be in the range of $1 million-$3 million.

But isn’t MnDOT about to redo the whole road?

Yes, and while they’re making improvements to intersections in St. Paul and Mendota Heights, Smith/Dodd will only see sidewalks and ramps brought up to basic ADA compliance. City staff are still pushing MnDOT to see if any incremental improvements can be made at Smith/Dodd as part of this project but no luck so far.

How can I get involved?

There will be a series of open houses, most likely in August, and recommendations are expected to go to the city council in November. You can always submit comments to your city council representative.