One focus during the master planning process for Summit Avenue is to develop a more detailed plan for the segment between Lexington Parkway (shown above) and Victoria Street.

A master plan for Summit Avenue will be unveiled by the city of Saint Paul this spring that could bring a future regional trail as well as pedestrian and transportation changes to the popular roadway.

Public engagement for the plan is now underway, and the last of three virtual open houses will be held from 12:30-1 p.m. Wednesday, April 13. The meeting link is at tinyurl.com/mrxktche. A chance to submit ideas and take a survey are also available through the city’s Engage Saint Paul website at engagestpaul.org/summit.

One focus during the process is to develop a more detailed plan for the segment between Lexington Parkway and Victoria Street. That part of Summit is slated for reconstruction in 2023. Plans are also being developed for other stretches of the 4.5-mile-long street.

In an interview, Mary Norton and Brett Hussong of the Saint Paul Department of Parks and Recreation reviewed the work done so far and what lies ahead.

   

Summit carries between 7,000 and 10,000 motor vehicles per day. An estimated 800-1,000 bicyclists per day join the traffic flow during warmer months. That number drops to about 30-50 bicyclists a day during the winter.

Some priorities have emerged during studies so far, Norton said. One focus is on improving green space and determining where an improved regional trail can best be placed. Regional trails can take many forms, with some offering combined uses for pedestrians and cyclists, and others having separated uses.

Summit has one of the city’s oldest on-street bike lanes in Saint Paul, dating from the 1990s. The lanes west of Lexington were restriped and widened slightly in 2020. Some cycling advocates have called for the bike lanes to be separated by curbs or barriers.

 

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The street itself also needs work, with needs ranging from addressing the annual pothole problem to improving pedestrian crossings. “We want to make being on Summit a safer experience,” Norton said.

Summit has sidewalks on both sides, and some stretches are in poor condition. The street itself also needs work, with needs ranging from addressing the annual pothole problem to improving pedestrian crossings. “We want to make being on Summit a safer experience,” Norton said.

The study of Summit Avenue began last fall. An advisory committee has been meeting to discuss ideas, and design and master plan concepts are in the works. That group hopes to wrap up its work this spring.

Preferred alternatives are to be released by early summer, launching more public comments. A final master plan is to be unveiled in June, followed by another round of public engagement. Final approval by the City Council is expected this fall.

The project will be reviewed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, the Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee and the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Capitol Region Watershed District will also be involved.

Summit has more space than most Saint Paul streets, with a 100 feet of right-of-way and 200-foot medians for part of its route. The roadway is in both the Historic Hill and Summit Avenue West districts, and those historic designations will have an effect on the design that is finally approved.

The project’s Design Advisory and Technical Advisory committees have analyzed existing conditions and are developing regional trail concepts, Norton said. The study of existing green spaces will include the area northwest of the Summit Avenue bridge over Ayd Mill Road. That property has long been treated as a park, but is actually city right-of-way.

Another part of planning has involved identifying ways to protect city-designated landmark trees. Those trees along Summit would need additional root system protections in any future construction.

The master plan eventually will go to the Metropolitan Council for inclusion in the regional trail system. The Twin Cities has 45 proposed regional trails without Met Council-approved master plans. Many of those trails, including Summit, have been considered part of the regional park system for years. However, without formal approval, they are not eligible for regional park system funding.

Norton said another goal of the Summit Avenue master plan is improved connections to other regional trails, including Mississippi River Boulevard and the Samuel Morgan Trail along Shepard Road.

— Jane McClure

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