Next Smith Avenue construction workshop Sept. 15

MNDoT news release:

Workshop for High Bridge, Smith Avenue project in St. Paul area set for Sept. 15

The public is invited to learn and provide input about future improvements to Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—in St. Paul, West St. Paul and Mendota Heights at a community workshop scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The workshop will be held from 5 – 7 p.m. at Capital View Cafe, 637 Smith Avenue in St. Paul.

Workshop attendees will have the opportunity provide input about what biking, walking and driving improvements they would like to be considered as part of an upcoming project on the High Bridge, Smith Avenue and Dodd Road.

The proposed project is scheduled for spring 2018 through fall 2018. Work includes:

  • Reconstructing the bridge deck of the Smith Avenue High Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
  • Resurfacing Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—between West 7th Street in St. Paul and I-494 in Mendota Heights.
  • Improving drainage, sidewalks and pedestrian accessibility.
  • Replacing signals at five Highway 149 intersections.
  • Constructing an additional left turn lane from westbound I-494 to southbound Dodd Road in Mendota Heights.

The project will extend the lifespan of Highway 149 and the High Bridge, and provide a smoother road surface and improved ride for motorists.

This work is expected to result in the complete closure of the High Bridge for one construction season.

The Sept. 15 workshop is the second of three workshops scheduled for this project. The third and final workshop will be held in Mendota Heights in early October. A time, date and location for the third workshop will be announced when it is finalized.

Please visit the project website for upcoming event dates and times, in addition to project updates, at www.mndot.gov/metro/projects/hwy149highbridge.

To request an ASL or foreign language interpreter, call 651-366-4720. To request other reasonable accommodations, call 651-366-4718; the Minnesota Relay service toll-free at 1-800-627-3529) TTY, Voice or ASCII) or 711, or email your request to adarequest.dot@state.mn.us.

MnDOT High Bridge / Smith Avenue workshop to be held August 24

The first of three public meetings on the Smith Avenue / High Bridge reconstruction project will be held Monday August 24, from 5-7 p.m., at Bad Weather Brewery at 414 W. 7th. (never heard of it? It’s in the former repair shop space at Smith and McBoal, across from DiGidio’s).

Two additional workshops will be held on the West Side and in Mendota Heights, information will be posted here as soon as they are scheduled.

Full news release is pasted below. Please help spread the word!

The public is invited to learn and provide input about future improvements to Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—in St. Paul, West St. Paul and Mendota Heights at a community workshop scheduled for Aug. 24.

The workshop will be held from 5 – 7 p.m. at Bad Weather Brewery, 414 West Seventh Street in St. Paul.

The proposed project is scheduled for spring 2018 through fall 2018. Work includes:

  • Reconstructing the bridge deck of the Smith Avenue High Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
  • Resurfacing Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—between West 7th Street in St. Paul and I-494 in Mendota Heights.
  • Improving drainage, sidewalks and pedestrian accessibility.
  • Replacing signals at five Highway 149 intersections.
  • Constructing an additional left turn lane from westbound I-494 to southbound Dodd Road in Mendota Heights.

The project will extend the lifespan of Highway 149 and the High Bridge, and provide a smoother road surface and improved ride for motorists.

This work is expected to result in the complete closure of the High Bridge for one construction season.

Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the overall project, get details about specific project elements and provide feedback on potential improvements to the High Bridge, Smith Avenue and Dodd Road. Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and project staff will be on hand to answer questions and gather input.

Two additional project workshops will be held in the coming months. Times and dates will be announced when they are finalized.

Please visit the project website for upcoming event dates and times, in addition to project updates, at www.mndot.gov/metro/projects/hwy149highbridge.

To request an ASL or foreign language interpreter, call 651-366-4720. To request other reasonable accommodations, call 651-366-4718; the Minnesota Relay service toll-free at 1-800-627-3529) TTY, Voice or ASCII) or 711, or email your request to adarequest.dot@state.mn.us.

High Bridge / Smith Ave project: Here’s how you can get involved

This image from MnDOT shows the deteriorating underside of the High Bridge.

This image from MnDOT shows the deteriorating underside of the High Bridge.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the High Bridge will be closing for a couple of months in 2018 (news outlets have been reporting 2017, but the date has been pushed back). The decking on the bridge needs to be replaced — no small project — and while they’re at it, MnDOT is going to go ahead and do some resurfacing of Highway 149, including Smith Avenue.

You may also be aware that around five years ago, a group of neighborhood volunteers from both St. Paul and West St. Paul endured eagerly participated in more than a year’s worth of meetings to establish a new comprehensive plan for the Smith Avenue corridor (disclosure: the writer of this post was a participant). The transportation section of the plan included provisions for improving pedestrian safety and calming traffic, addressing one of the biggest concerns for business owners and residents along the street.

The previous plan was drafted in 1984 and was basically ignored for more than two decades. This time around, though, would be completely different, we were assured. Next time the street is reconstructed, big changes would be coming.

So does this construction project mean the plan will finally be implemented? Well, maybe, maybe not.

For instance, while the comprehensive plan calls for “bump-outs” at key intersections throughout the corridor to make it safer for pedestrians to cross and to encourage drivers to keep it somewhat close to the speed limit, so far it appears only one intersection — Baker Street — is being considered for this upgrade (details on page 184 of this document). The plan calls for updating any non-ADA compliant sidewalk, which means a lot of curb corners are going to be replaced, so any changes (or lack of changes) made during this project are likely to stick around for a long time.

Tara McBride, the MnDOT engineer in charge of the project, cautions that this is “a repaving of the road, not a complete reconstruction,” so opportunities for significant upgrades may be limited. But McBride has recently reviewed the Smith Avenue plan (at the prompting of Christine Shyne from WSCO) and says “we are looking at the entire corridor to see what pedestrian and bicycle improvements can be made as part of this project to address Complete Streets.”

You’ll have a chance soon to offer more input. MnDOT is scheduling community meetings at both ends of the bridge in August and September. We’ll post more information here as it becomes available.

Also, you can sign up for email updates from MnDOT about the project.

St. Paul bike plan: What’s in store for Smith Avenue?

The City of St. Paul recently released its draft bikeways plan, which provides recommendations for new and improved facilities to accommodate increasing numbers of cyclists.

This was also a regular topic of conversation during the drafting of the Smith Avenue revitalization plan a few years ago. Because of its topography, the neighborhood is a popular training route for competitive cyclists, but there are also a fair number of everyday bike commuters (disclosure: I’m one of them) and recreational cyclists. Smith Avenue is also home to Capital Deals, the only bike shop on St. Paul’s West Side.

The neighborhood’s revitalization plan stops short of recommending specific bike routes, instead calling for “safe bike routes for all users” and recommending study of a bike boulevard parallel to Smith Avenue. We considered several possibilities for bike routes on Smith Avenue itself but it would be virtually impossible to do without disrupting the street parking that several businesses depend on.

Reuben Collins, who’s heading up St. Paul’s bike plan, said the planners looked at Smith and also determined it’s not a good candidate for bike lanes. You can see the city’s recommendations on the portion of the map below:

bike lane mapThe green line is the existing Cherokee Regional Trail. Red lines are streets recommended for bike lanes (Annapolis and the High Bridge). Blue lines are “enhanced shared lanes” which use pavement markings and signs to indicate the presence of bikes (Ohio, George). And purple lines (Delaware, Baker) are “bike boulevards,” which are streets designed to prioritize non-motorized transportation and discourage heavy car traffic.

It’s this last designation that’s liable to stir up the most confusion, because a bike boulevard can be comprised of many different designs. Bike boulevards in West Coast cities sometimes use curbs and roundabouts to calm traffic. In practice in Minnesota, the results are less dramatic (the need to plow snow keeps us from getting too fancy with the pavement). Important thing to keep in mind is that these streets don’t ban cars outright, they just discourage through traffic, much like a suburban cul-de-sac.

The bike plan does diverge from the Smith Avenue revitalization plan in one important respect, however. The proposed routes running parallel to Smith are both three blocks away, which may be too far away to funnel bike traffic toward neighborhood businesses. Wayfinding signs may solve this, but Ottawa or Manomin may be other options worth considering.

(ADDENDUM: It’s worth noting that Delaware and Charlton are identified as potential corridors in West St. Paul’s bike/pedestrian plan, so bike routes on Delaware and Ohio would provide good continuity)

This is just a draft, and if adopted will become an addendum to the city’s comprehensive plan for future development. There is no timetable for implementation at this point, no guarantee any of this will become reality anytime soon.

If you have feedback on the bike plan, there are three more public forums coming up soon, and you can also submit comments in writing. All of the maps, documents, and other information you need are right here.

Bus service changes coming this summer (sort of)

That's actually me getting on the 67 at Smith and Annapolis. (Photo by Drew Kerr / Metro Transit, used with permission)

That’s me getting on the 67 at Smith and Annapolis. (Photo by Drew Kerr / Metro Transit, used with permission)

The Route 67 bus — Metro Transit’s “Route to Relaxation” — serving Smith Avenue is among the routes that will change on June 14 when the Green Line light rail service begins between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

I’ll get to the details in a moment. But to avoid confusion, I’ll start with the main takeaway: Basically, everything will be the same, except the bus will have a 62 on it instead of a 67. I’ve created a handy photo illustration below:

62

What’s happening to the 67, you ask? Currently, when the 67 arrives downtown, it continues west along Thomas and Minnehaha and dumps you out in Midway somewhere. After June 14, that western portion of the route will continue and combine with the Route 8 bus serving Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. You can see a map here.

The 62, which currently serves Rice Street and ends downtown, will continue from downtown to the West Side along the old 67 route. The 62 has longer hours and greater frequency on Sundays, but don’t get too excited, the portion serving Smith Avenue will still have essentially the same service hours as the 67 does now.

So if you use the 67 to get downtown, there shouldn’t be any significant changes other than a different number on the front of the bus. I wouldn’t rule out minor schedule changes though, so be sure to double-check the schedule online before the changes take place this summer.