By Jane McClure
Improved lighting and pedestrian safety projects dominate the submissions for the second phase of St. Paul’s redesigned Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) process. The CIB Committee and city staff recently began reviewing 98 requests for projects expected to take place in 2021. Plans call for public presentations in May, but whether that happens is unknown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee’s goal is to make recommendations to Mayor Melvin Carter by June 30. The City Council will make the final decision on the requests by the end of the year as part of the 2021 city budget.
The city launched the redesign of its CIB process last year to replace a system that had been in place for more than three decades. Under the new process, city departments submitted projects in 2019 for construction this year, while all others submitted requests this year for funding in 2021. The latter projects were originally vying for $500,000, but that amount has been increased to $1 million following criticism from neighborhood activists.
Carter announced a focus on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design for the 2020 submissions. Most of the proposals are for improved lighting and pedestrian and traffic safety. Only one request out of the 98 was made for cameras and ShotSpotter, a device that detects the location of gunshots.
One request calls for improved lighting, seating and other infrastructure improvement in McQuillan, Cochrane and Boyd parks, as well as the Holly Tot Lot in Summit-University. Other requests include improved lighting on streets around St. Catherine University, at Fairview and Princeton avenues in Macalester-Groveland, and on 10th Street, Osborn Plaza, Wacouta Commons, the light-rail Central Station, Pedro Park, Hamm Plaza, Lowertown Tot Lot, Kellogg Mall Park and Cohen Plaza outside of the City Hall/Courthouse in downtown.
The Summit Hill Association (SHA) is asking that the Grand Avenue and Victoria Street intersection be converted to a “pedestrian scramble.” Traffic signals would stop motor vehicles in all directions to allow safer pedestrian crossings. A pedestrian scramble also is proposed at Snelling and University avenues.
The Highland District Council submitted a request for an improved pedestrian crossing at Shepard Road and Rankin Street to provide safer access to the Samuel Morgan Trail and Crosby Farm Regional Park. It also is seeking funds to redesign the Highland Park Community Center ballfields.
A request was submitted to remove on-street parking and create a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Summit Avenue. Additional bike racks would be added along Grand to encourage more bicyclists to patronize businesses there. A related request seeks better snow removal on Summit and Grand avenues for improved winter walking and biking. Other requests include pedestrian safety improvements at the Grand-Avon and Grand-Snelling intersections, such as pedestrian islands, flashing lights and brightly painted crosswalks.
Snelling was the focus of other proposals. They include a push-button flashing light and crosswalk at Snelling and Osceola avenues, widening or raising the existing pedestrian crossing at Snelling and Lincoln avenues, and adding more pedestrian crossings on Snelling between Selby and St. Clair avenues.
Other local streets also were the focus of submissions. They include a painted crosswalk at Highland Parkway and Mississippi River Boulevard, and adding emergency call posts and widening the bike-pedestrian trail along Mississippi River Boulevard.
Proposals were submitted for sidewalk improvements along Fairview Avenue below the I-94 overpass, for pedestrian safety improvements on Grand near Ramsey Middle School, for a sidewalk and bike lanes along Gilbert Street between Prior and Cleveland avenues, for turning West Seventh Street into a pedestrian plaza in front of Xcel Energy Center, and for more pedestrian-activated lights at crossings along University Avenue.
Improvements sought in the Snelling-Hamline neighborhood include building sidewalks at the southeast corner of Pascal Street and Concordia Avenue, and making pedestrian safety improvements at Selby Avenue and Saratoga Street.
A few requests involved street improvements that move vehicular traffic. One is for a dedicated turn lane with phasing signal at Cretin and Randolph avenues to reduce rush-hour traffic backups.
Macalester-Groveland resident Luke Hanson suggested closing some streets that intersect with West Seventh Street to eliminate dangerous turns; reducing traffic lanes on portions of West Seventh Street, Dale Street and the I-94 frontage roads; adding corner bumpouts and pedestrian refuges along Grand Avenue; and making pedestrian safety improvements on Selby Avenue.
Other requests were more general, including a call for more north-south bike routes, traffic safety zones around schools, more use of roundabouts at intersections and added traffic calming. One proposal is to install intelligent street lighting in the city that brightens in response to movement by pedestrians, bicyclists and cars.