Project is part of Phase II of Griggs-Scheffer street paving

By Jane McClure

Plans to pave new sidewalks along a stretch of Edgcumbe Road as part of the city of St. Paul’s Griggs-Scheffer street paving project next year dominated the discussion of the Highland District Council’s Transportation Committee on June 9. Some homeowners along the street are pushing back against the idea, though city policy requires sidewalks to be installed where none exist whenever streets are rebuilt.

Before 2017, homeowners could petition to opt out of new sidewalks during street projects, as was done on Woodlawn Avenue when that street was rebuilt. That led to long and contentious City Council meetings. Council members were frustrated when neighborhoods turned over and new residents complained that their streets did not have sidewalks.

City Council members changed the policy that year, stating that it was being applied inconsistently. Bolstering the new policy mandating new sidewalks was the city’s Pedestrian Plan that was adopted in 2019.

Phase II of the Griggs-Scheffer street repaving project will take place in 2021 and will include the roads indicated by a heavy black line.

The first phase of the Griggs-Scheffer project includes stretches of Syndicate Street and Juno, Watson, Hartford, Bayard and Scheffer avenues between Hamline and Edgcumbe Road during this construction season. Work is scheduled to end in November. It will include new pavement, curbs and gutters, driveway aprons, sidewalks, street lighting, boulevard trees, sewer and water main replacement or repair, storm sewer catch basins, public art and ADA-compliant corner ramps.

Streets in the second phase next year will include stretches of Eleanor Avenue, Highland Parkway, Syndicate, Edgcumbe Road, Edgcumbe Place, and Alaska and Vista avenues. Edgcumbe is to be rebuilt from Highland Parkway to just east of Hamline where there currently are no sidewalks.

Chris Engelmann, project manager for the city’s Department of Public Works, said the design for the second phase will be wrapped up by the end of this year. Discussions with affected property owners are expected to get underway this summer. Public Works typically hosts public meetings, but with the COVID-19 pandemic the meetings are likely to be online.

“People can be very passionate about their neighborhoods, but the city has to balance all needs and wants,” Engelmann said. 

HDC committee member Lyn Varco asked why a sidewalk could not be placed in the center medians of Edgcumbe, rather than in front of houses. Engelmann said that design does not provide the same level of access and safety that sidewalks in front of homes can. The city also relies on abutting property owners to remove snow on sidewalks.

“People can be very passionate about their neighborhoods, but the city has to balance all needs and wants,” Engelmann said. 

Ward 3 council member Chris Tolbert favors installing the sidewalks, according to his legislative aide Melanie McMahon. “Right now, we have people pushing strollers in the street,” she said. She added that efforts will be made to save mature trees when the sidewalks are built.

HDC board president Michelle Doyle raised the issue of sidewalk design. Some Highland sidewalks in Highland Park butt up to the streets, making snow removal more difficult and creating a more hazardous environment for pedestrians.

Engelmann said mandatory sidewalk construction is only waived in unusual cases when streets are rebuilt, such as narrow rights-of-way or issues with drainage or terrain. That could be the case on Edgcumbe Place, a short, narrow, dead-end street that branches off from Edgcumbe Road.

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