A quarter-mile of Prior Avenue just north of I-94 will be reconstructed in 2022. The section between Gilbert and University avenues will be largely closed to traffic from June to November as the Saint Paul Department of Public Works gives that mostly industrial and commercial street a new appearance.

The work will include new pavement, new sidewalks with pedestrian ramps, improved bike lanes, concrete curbs and gutters, concrete outwalks and driveway aprons, lantern-style streetlighting, public art, newly sodded boulevards with trees, new sewer and water mains, and new storm sewer catch basins. The owners of private property along Prior will also have the option of replacing old underground utility pipes at a reduced cost while the street is torn up.

Prior carries about 4,637 vehicles per day. Properties along the west side of Prior are zoned for industrial use. The east side was rezoned several years ago for traditional neighborhoods use in hopes of encouraging its redevelopment with a mix of commercial and residential uses.

The work is needed because of the street’s poor condition, according to Public Works project engineer Jary Lee. Prior was last rebuilt in 1986 near the outset of the city’s 10-year sewer-separation project. However, the stretch north of I-94 carries a lot of traffic, including heavy trucks, Lee said.

The city ranks its streets on a pavement condition index, with zero being the worst and 100 the best. Prior between Saint Anthony and Oakley avenues has a score of 17. Other parts of the avenue rank higher, especially near University where work was done about a decade ago to prepare for the light-rail Green Line. 

The new design of Prior will result in slightly wider bike lanes, some pedestrian improvements and the loss of about seven parking spaces on the east side of the street, according to Lee. Prior currently has one 11-foot traffic lane and a 5-foot bike lane in each direction. The traffic lanes will remain at 11 feet, but the bike lanes will be widened to 6 feet. The bike lanes on Prior connect to others on Saint Anthony, Marshall and Minnehaha avenues and Pierce Butler Route.

Each side of Prior has a 5-foot sidewalk and an 8-foot boulevard. Expanding the bike lanes will reduce by 2 feet the width of the boulevard on the east side.

Other changes are also planned. The intersection of Prior and Gilbert will be reconfigured to slow down trucks as they turn. Changes will also be made beneath the railroad bridge where sight lines are an issue. Corner bumpouts will be added on the east side of Prior at Feronia and Oakley avenues. About 380 feet of sidewalk will be added on the west side of the street where there is no sidewalk now.

For more information on the project and to register to receive updates, visit stpaul.gov/projects/public-works/pw2022prioravenue.

— Jane McClure


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