Macalester median
The fifth option that is being considered for the Grand Avenue median that bisects Macalester College would raise the road surface to be even with the curbs, widen the existing east and west pedestrian crossings and remove the center crossing. Reconstruction of the Grand-Snelling intersection is also part of the project, but is still being worked out with the state.

A wide range of options to slow traffic and protect pedestrians are under consideration as the city of Saint Paul plans to reconstruct Grand Avenue between Fairview and Snelling avenues in 2024. The project, which was reviewed at September meetings and an open house, would be the first full reconstruction of that stretch of Grand in decades.

Reconstruction of the Grand-Snelling intersection is also now part of the project, thanks to Minnesota Department of Transportation funding. Its redesign should be completed in a few months.

“We’ll work directly with MnDOT on design,” said Joe Widing, project manager for the city’s Department of Public Works.

It is unknown yet what the Grand-Snelling intersection redesign will cost. Design options are ready for the rest of the project, which is estimated at about $7 million and will include the replacement of pavement, sidewalks and underground utilities. 

Phase two of public engagement has begun and will extend into November, with an open house last week with Macalester College and a virtual Macalester-Groveland business roundtable set for 8 a.m. Tuesday, October 18.

The first phase of public input drew more than 500 responses in online surveys, meetings, events and a tour with affected business owners. A special focus was on Macalester College, which is bisected by Grand, and to Hidden River Middle School (formerly Ramsey).

Most public comments continue to center on vehicle speeds and pedestrian safety, especially for students. In a recent survey, 55 percent of respondents said they drive on Grand, but 64 percent said they would like to walk or bike. Safety (28 percent) and pedestrian comfort (27 percent) were the most cited limiting factors.

Questions were raised at an open house on September 28 about parking impacts and business deliveries. Concerns about snow removal also were raised if more medians are built on Grand.

A landscaped median on Grand now extends from Snelling to Macalester Street. According to one count, that median has 4,624 pedestrian crossings a day.

cambridge and grand
The third option for Grand and Cambridge Street would add a full median that would extend across the intersection and eliminate through-movements on Cambridge.

Pedestrian counts at Grand and Cambridge near Hidden River show 405 crossings on school days. Pedestrian traffic falls significantly heading west on Grand, as residential density drops and the mix of land uses decreases.

Parking counts were also done on Grand and its cross streets. Grand has 134 on-street parking spaces between Macalester Street and Fairview Avenue, with 132 spaces on cross streets and 355 off-street spaces. However, some off-street lots are restricted.

One overall concept is to narrow Grand’s width from 56 feet to 48 feet. The non-vehicle space would widen from 24 to 32 feet. Bumpouts would be installed at non-signalized intersections to narrow the crossing distance. In the Mac Market area between Macalester and Cambridge streets, wider boulevards could provide more room for restaurant seating and business display space.

Between Cambridge and Fairview, concrete or landscaped medians or a center turn lane could be added. In all options, one 11-foot traffic lane would be maintained in each direction, with a six-foot parking lane on each side of the street. The boulevards on both sides of the street would be widened.

Some meeting attendees liked the idea of adding medians to slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety. But at a Macalester-Groveland Community Council Transportation Committee meeting, Brian Martinson raised concerns about bicyclists’ safety when passing parked vehicles.

Phase two of public engagement has begun and will extend into November, with an open house last week with Macalester College and a virtual Macalester-Groveland business roundtable set for 8 a.m. Tuesday, October 18.

Macalester College options

Five options are being eyed for the Macalester College median, which has three pedestrian crossings. All of the options would require improvements to allow people with disabilities to cross mid-block.

One option is to largely leave the median as is, but for the accessibility improvements. A second option would widen the west crossing to 20 feet, with the center and east crossings remaining as is. A third option would close the center crossing and widen the east and west crossings. A fourth option would close the east and west crossings and expand the center crossing.

A fifth option is for a “tabled crossing,” which would involve raising the road surface to the top of the curb. The east and west crossings would be widened and the center crossing removed.

Widing said it is possible that none of the five options will be chosen. Instead, a combination of options could be brought forward. While a few people at the open house suggested a pedestrian bridge, there is not enough space on the college campus to build such a structure.

Cambridge Street options

Three options are being considered for the intersection of Cambridge and Grand. One is to add bumpouts to reduce the crossing distance from 48 to 36 feet. That would require moving the bus stops.

A second option is a partial intersection median, which could further reduce the crossing distance. That would mean removing the northbound left-turn lane.

A third idea is to add a full intersection median to cover both east and west crossing points. That would eliminate vehicle through-movements on Cambridge.

Fairview Avenue options

At Grand and Fairview, intersection designs with and without corner bumpouts are on the table. The bumpout option would reduce the crossing distance from 48 feet to 36 feet, right-turn space to Fairview would be reduced and bus stops on Grand would be moved.

Fairview and Grand
Intersection designs with and without bumpouts are being proposed at Grand and Fairview.
Input in the weeks ahead will further shape the designs, Widing said. Final plans should be unveiled in 2023, with construction in 2024. For detailed sketches of the concept drawings and to weigh in on them, see

— Jane McClure


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