Saint Paul’s ambitious plan to reconstruct all of its residential streets was supposed to wrap up in 2005-2006. But with about 25 years of work remaining, some City Council members are getting impatient. They had difficult questions for city engineer Paul Kurtz during a November 2 budget review of the Department of Public Works’ five-year capital plan.

Next year, the city plans to increase funding for its Saint Paul Streets program from $12.5 million to $16.5 million. The added $4 million is earmarked to resurface neighborhood streets rebuilt during the city’s 1985-1995 sewer separation and street reconstruction program. The program came out of a federal lawsuit that Wisconsin filed against Saint Paul, South Saint Paul and Minneapolis for allowing raw sewage to flow into the Mississippi River during heavy rain and snow runoff.

Kurtz said streets rebuilt under the program in the 1980s and ’90s are showing their age and need mill and overlay work to prolong their life. The first area slated for resurfacing is Como-Valentine in Saint Anthony Park and, if funds are left over, then Cretin-Bayard in Highland.

Under sewer separation work and the city’s subsequent Residential Streets Vitality Program, three or four residential construction projects could be done in a year. Eighty-eight project areas were pending in 1995, with about 70 completed up to now. Fewer than 20 remain, but those will take as long as 25 years to complete without other funding sources.

“We really need to start a residential mill and overlay program…$4 million doesn’t buy you a lot of reconstruction,” Kurtz said.

Rising costs mean that during some years the city does half of one neighborhood area or no neighborhood projects at all. One example is the Griggs-Scheffer project in Highland. Due to some work having to be redone, that project has been extended over three years.

The program, now dubbed Saint Paul Streets, was expanded to include arterial streets in 2014. That is when then-Mayor Chris Coleman unveiled his list of the “Terrible 20” arterial streets in need of work. If an arterial street is not eligible for state or county dollars, the city must bear all of the costs. That puts more strain on budgets.

“We really need to start a residential mill and overlay program…$4 million doesn’t buy you a lot of reconstruction,” Kurtz said. The work will keep residential streets in better shape and allow the city to put off having to fully rebuild them.

In the five-year Saint Paul Streets plan, four other areas in the North End and East Side are proposed for resurfacing through 2027 and beyond.

— Jane McClure


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