Up to $9 million in tax increment financing drawn from the Highland Bridge development may be used for traffic improvements and other new infrastructure throughout a large swath of the Highland Park neighborhood as the result of an amendment to the Ford site’s tax increment financing (TIF) district approved by the Saint Paul City Council.

The City Council voted on October 14 to expand the Ford TIF project area beyond Ford Motor Company’s former assembly plant as far north as Randolph Avenue, as far east as Fairview Avenue and as far south as Montreal Avenue. Between Cleveland Avenue and the Mississippi River, the project area will extend even further south to Magoffin Avenue and Return Court.

A TIF district draws on the increased property tax revenue generated by a development project to help pay for related improvements. The City Council created the TIF district for the Ford site in 2016 to help pay for the construction of new streets and utilities as well as affordable housing for low-income residents, both on the Ford site and elsewhere in Saint Paul.

Ford site master developer Ryan Companies is responsible for making traffic improvements at three intersections around the Ford site: Ford Parkway and Cleveland Avenue, Cleveland and Montreal Avenue, and Ford and Cretin Avenue.

   
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Among the first improvements financed through an expansion of the Ford TIF District is the $1.91 million bike and pedestrian connection that will pass through a tunnel under Mississippi River Boulevard.

The expansion of the Ford TIF project area will help finance traffic improvements north, east and south of those intersections. Using TIF instead of the city’s capital improvement budget will allow the projects to move forward without having to compete with other city street projects.

Among the first infrastructure projects to be financed through the Ford TIF district’s expanded area is a 90-foot-long bicycle and pedestrian connection between Highland Bridge and Hidden Falls Regional Park. The 12-foot-wide bituminous trail will run along a man-made stream that will carry treated stormwater from Highland Bridge to Hidden Falls and the Mississippi River. The trail will pass through a lighted, limestone tunnel beneath Mississippi River Boulevard and end at a terrace overlooking Hidden Falls.

The $1.91 million bike and pedestrian connection, which will receive $200,000 in TIF, is the first phase of a long-range plan to extend Highland Bridge’s bike and pedestrian trails to Hidden Falls and Crosby Farm parks and to the Samuel Morgan Trail along Shepard Road.

 

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— Jane McClure

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