Improving pedestrian safety and slowing traffic are among the primary concerns that have emerged as planning gets underway for the reconstruction of Grand Avenue between Snelling and Fairview avenues in 2024.
More than a dozen people attended a June 1 virtual open house to get an update on the project. Online comments have generated more than 500 responses to a survey and interactive map.
The public engagement process will continue this month. Comments will be used by the Saint Paul Department of Public Works to draft alternative plans, said project manager Joe Widing.
By September, as many as five alternatives could be drafted. Another round of public reviews could take place in the fall before a preferred alternative is chosen. Project staging, detours and street closures will be announced at a later date.
Public Works is seeking funding from MnDOT to rebuild the Snelling and Grand intersection, Widing said. That is not included in the original estimate of $6.99 million to rebuild Grand between Snelling and Fairview.
The Grand Avenue project calls for replacing street pavement, sidewalks and underground utilities. The existing cobra-style tall light poles would be replaced with lantern-style street lighting.
Grand’s pavement is in very poor shape in places. Public Works sees the project, which would be the first full reconstruction of that section of Grand in decades, as a chance to better accommodate all modes of travel.
Pedestrian safety along the half-mile stretch of the street has emerged as a top priority, Widing said. That stretch includes Macalester College, businesses, the middle school, and a mix of houses and apartment buildings. The street’s 56-foot width between Macalester Street and Fairview, coupled with vehicle speeds, create a hazards for pedestrians, according to Widing.
Yet another issue is potential damage to buildings along the street, many of which are more than a century old. Scott Fares, co-owner of Wet Paint at 1684 Grand Ave., urged Public Works to scrutinize buildings before, during and after construction. “We expect that we’ll end up with some harm,” Fares said.
Changes could be made to narrow the street and widen sidewalks and boulevards, Widing said. That could benefit businesses that use sidewalk space for patrons, but it could also adversely affect businesses whose products are unloaded by trucks in the street.
Other needs that have emerged during the weeks of public input include upgrading aging infrastructure, and improving Metro Transit’s Route 63 bus line. Most of the on-street parking on Grand would be retained.
Several areas considered for changes have been discussed. One is where Grand bisects the Macalester College campus. A landscaped median installed there provides some level of safety for students to cross, but it is also confusing for motorists and is not accessible for people with disabilities.
Another safety concern is at Grand and Cambridge Street, where middle school students cross. The middle school has issues of its own that affect Grand traffic during student pickup and drop-off times.
Yet another issue is potential damage to buildings along the street, many of which are more than a century old. Scott Fares, co-owner of Wet Paint at 1684 Grand Ave., urged Public Works to scrutinize buildings before, during and after construction.
“We expect that we’ll end up with some harm,” Fares said.
To get more information and leave comments on the Grand reconstruction plans, visit tinyurl.com/2p8ffedj.
— Jane McClure
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