Detours are popping up north and south of Ford site project.

Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians have been frustrated this spring and summer with the profusion of construction-related detours in the Highland Park neighborhood. In addition to an unusually large number of Saint Paul Public Works Department projects, the Highland Bridge development on the former Ford Plant site has closed portions of Ford Parkway, Mississippi River Boulevard, Cretin, Montreal and Cleveland avenues at times.

Residents south of Highland Village have struggled to get in and out of their neighborhood. Marcia Avner, who lives on Cleveland near Magoffin Avenue, said it took her 20 minutes one day to get home by car from Highland Village. “We have very few alternatives to get in and out of our neighborhood,” she said.

In neighborhoods north and south of the 122-acre Highland Bridge site, residential streets have been plagued by speeding vehicles. Highland District Council (HDC) executive director Kathy Carruth said that is a big issue for residents who are worried about pedestrian safety, especially those with children.

Pinehurst Avenue resident Seder Peterson saw a huge increase in traffic on her street with the closing of the half block of Cretin north of Ford Parkway in July. Construction trucks and other motor vehicles did not follow the posted detours, according to her, and many were speeding. “It was insane,” she said.

The past three months have been trying for residents south and east of the former Ford Plant. Traffic to and from Hidden Falls Regional Park has been heavy, reckless and loud, according to Avner. “We’re hearing a lot of motorcycles late at night,” she said. “We understand this is temporary, but we think it could have been handled better.”

Highland Bridge
Highland Park residents Jim Ginther, Wy Spano, Marcia Avner and Jim Winterer survey the ongoing work on the pedestrian tunnel underneath Mississippi River Boulevard that has closed that throughfare just south of the Highland Bridge development. Photo by Brad Stauffer

A check of the Cleveland-Magoffin area on a Sunday afternoon bore out Avner’s concerns as motor vehicles turned off of Mississippi River Boulevard onto Magoffin to Cleveland. Many vehicles barely paused for the stop sign on eastbound Magoffin.

The traffic problems in that area are largely caused by the closure of Mississippi River Boulevard just north of Hidden Falls. The closing of river road, which began in May, will continue until mid-September. A tunnel is being created beneath river road for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling between Highland Bridge and Hidden Falls Regional Park. The tunnel will also carry water from Highland Bridge’s stream over Hidden Falls.

According to Tolbert, there was not a good way to plan for the work because of the need to carry out parts of the Highland Bridge project in succession. He is urging Ryan Companies and Public Works officials to finish the projects as quickly as possible.

The HDC, Saint Paul Department of Public Works, Highland Bridge master developer Ryan Companies and the office of Ward 3 City Council member Chris Tolbert have all been in communication about the traffic issues in Highland. Members of the HDC’s Transportation Committee have also been involved, and they acknowledged earlier this year that there is not much local officials can do to improve the situation.

“I live on the south side of the Ford site,” said HDC president Michelle Doyle. According to her, it has not been easy for her and her neighbors.

“We know it’s been difficult for residents,” Tolbert said. “It’s difficult because we have to get the Highland Bridge work done.”

According to Tolbert, there was not a good way to plan for the work because of the need to carry out parts of the Highland Bridge project in succession. He is urging Ryan Companies and Public Works officials to finish the projects as quickly as possible.

“We’re working closely with Ryan Companies to make the street closures as minimal as possible,” said Public Works spokesperson Lisa Hiebert.

Ryan has worked to install detour signs, according to company spokesperson Erica Dao. The Highland Bridge master developer posts regular updates on construction and traffic around the development site at

Lane closures at Ford Parkway and Cretin Avenue

Traffic on Ford Parkway between Cleveland and the Mississippi River has been affected by the construction project for many months. Turn lanes and traffic lanes have been closed. Traffic has been one-way at times. Ryan Companies has been overseeing utility work, redesigning intersections, and installing new curbs, gutters and traffic signals near Ford and Mount Curve Boulevard. Most of the work there has been completed. The same work is underway at Ford and Cretin, and that should be done by August 7.

With a half block of Cretin closed north of Ford Parkway, residents on Mount Curve and Highland Parkway have seen large increases in traffic. Construction trucks and other motor vehicle traffic have been directed to Cleveland and Randolph, but vehicles are cutting through on side streets.

Peterson said she contacted the city and Ryan Companies to complain, and more detour signs went up. Since then, the number of vehicles cutting through has been reduced, she said, but motorists are still speeding through the neighborhood. Peterson wished there was some way to slow vehicles, possibly with a temporary speed bump in the street or Ford-Pinehurst alley, but that is not something the city will do.

“There’s a lot of road work going on in Ward 3,” according to Hiebert. In addition to the Griggs-Scheffer street reconstruction project on Highland’s eastern end, she said, streets are being seal-coated and there will be a mill and overlay project early this fall on Saint Paul Avenue between West Seventh Street and Edgcumbe Road.

As difficult as the road work can be, Doyle said, “a lot of our streets really needed attention, and we’ll be glad to have the work done.”

— Jane McClure


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