The Macalester-Groveland Community Council (MGCC) on November 10 wrapped up several months of studies by its Transportation Committee and weighed in with its recommendations on the city’s plan to reconstruct Grand Avenue between Snelling and Fairview avenues in 2024.
Those recommendations and other public comments will be considered by the Saint Paul Department of Public Works over the next couple of months as design options for Grand are developed. Other than resurfacing near Macalester College a couple of years ago, Grand has not seen a lot of work along that stretch. The street is in very poor condition in places, with rankings of 13-51 on a scale of 100.
Reconstructing Grand between Fairview and Snelling has an estimated cost of $6.7 million and will include new pavement, lighting, sidewalks and underground utilities. The cost does not include the Grand-Snelling intersection. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is currently eyeing reconstruction of that intersection as part of its resurfacing of Snelling, a state highway.
The district council’s Transportation Committee made its recommendations in October, and committee chair Hugo Bruggeman and Public Works project manager Joe Widing presented them to the full district council.
Preferred options were split by street section, with the committee and full district council having the most discussion of potential changes to the Grand Avenue median that bisects the Macalester College campus. The median currently has three mid-block crossings, none of which are accessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
The committee debated several options presented by Public Works, including having fewer crossings. Bruggeman said the intent was to make a general recommendation of support for a raised crossing option, which vehicles would drive over as they travel on Grand. Having some sort of raised crossing is also favored by college students.
MGCC board president Art Punyko asked how a raised crossing would affect bus traffic. Widing said that as reconstruction plans are developed, the balance between vehicle and pedestrian needs will have to be weighed.
Several district council members cited the danger to pedestrians crossing Grand, especially near the college, and urged Public Works to find solutions.
Grand and Cambridge Street is another area where major changes are on the table. The options include adding standard corner bumpouts, building a partial intersection median or installing a full median. The district council recommends a partial median. Bruggeman said that would remove a northbound left-turn lane from Grand onto Cambridge, but would provide a pedestrian refuge for Hidden River Middle School students and other pedestrians.
A planted or paved median was proposed west of Cambridge Street by Public Works. No median is recommended by the district council to cut costs. Another reason is that a raised median could affect the safety of bicyclists.
The committee also recommended that corner bumpouts be placed on Grand at Fairview to reduce the crossing distance and provide more safety for pedestrians.
Grand’s traffic volume has decreased in recent years. The most recent average daily vehicle count was 7,779 in 2017. That number had been around 10,000-12,000, but dropped after the 2005 installation of the median between Snelling and Macalester Street.
— Jane McClure
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