Potholes are now a public safety issue

I have been hesitant to write this letter because I know that the condition of our city streets is not the most important item for City Hall to be concerned with. We have violence in our public schools and rec centers, violence at a celebration of life for victims who have lost their lives, security problems on the light-rail system. All of these are seemingly more important than the condition of our city streets—until I read the Pioneer Press on March 9:  One-sided parking for the rest of the season.

Mayor Carter is quoted as saying, “…it’s about making sure if we need to get to the neighbor’s house as quickly as possible.” So now it is a public safety issue! So, what happens if an ambulance or fire truck or police car is delayed in their response because the city streets are in such terrible condition? What happens if they hit a pothole and blow a tire? Who is responsible? The city? What if that extra time to answer a call results in someone dying? What then?

West Seventh Street and Grand Avenue have potholes so deep that the old streetcar rails are showing. Edgcumbe Road is practically not drivable from Highland Parkway to Hamline Avenue. Northbound Snelling Avenue in the right-hand lane is a total mess between Randolph and Grand avenues. Elway from Montreal Avenue to Shepard Road is like driving through a plowed field. Shepard Road is so bad, the potholes so deep and so frequent, that they have given up and just put up orange signs saying “rough road” and reduced the speed limit from 50 to 20 mph. Summit Avenue is unbelievably bad, especially in front of the governor’s mansion.

I am not asking for perfect streets, just drivable ones. Would the city please do something before just losing hubcaps, blowing tires and visits to the body shop get replaced by something much more serious.

C.T. Killian
Highland Park

Better options for Summit trail

Andy Singer characterizes Save Our Street (SOS) as “an ideological fringe group advancing conspiracy theories” (MyVillager Inbox, February 22). SOS has a petition against the proposed Summit Avenue Regional Trail that has been signed by more than 2,500 people from all over the city and beyond, along with more than 400 signed testimonials against the trail, on its website (savesummitavenue.org). Is it possible that all of these people are a fringe group advancing a bunch of baloney?

Singer claims “the street isn’t being widened.” However, the Summit Avenue Regional Trail 90% Draft Plan clearly shows a curb-to-curb expansion of 3 feet for segments A and C (Mississippi River to Fairview Avenue and Snelling Avenue to Lexington Parkway). Add another 2 feet for the construction zone and there will be significant disturbance reaching into the critical root zones of mature trees. Trail proponents are the ones spreading baloney when they insist the plan “stays between the existing curbs.”

Singer claims that the plan for the Summit Avenue Regional Trail is merely “switching the position of the bike lanes and parked cars.” Not so. In fact, it raises the bike trail from street level to sidewalk level and adds a raised buffer. This will require much more intensive construction.

Many trail proponents have been quoted as saying they are more than happy to sacrifice trees for safety. The false binary of “trees versus safety” is a zero sum game. SOS stands by its efforts to push the city on the known safety issues created by the 46 intersections and 150-plus driveways on Summit. Due to blind crossings and confusing rights-of-way, frequent crossings like these are more hazardous with sidewalk-level trails than with on-street bike lanes.

Remember all of the brand new curbs, ADA-compliant ramps, bumpouts and gutters that were installed in August 2022 during the mill and overlay project between Snelling and Lexington? All of that will have to be torn out for the sake of a raised and separated bike trail. Similar work has been scheduled for 2023 on Summit between the Mississippi River and Snelling and between Lexington and Victoria Street. That is most of the length of Summit. One has to ask, does the right hand talk to the left hand in the city of Saint Paul?

Singer also fails to mention that the city’s 90% draft plan calls for wider traffic lanes. Summit’s traffic lanes would expand by 1 foot in all segments except Snelling to Lexington. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) recommends narrowing traffic lanes to 10 feet to reduce car speeds and decrease the risk of death and critical injury to pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and passengers. Why would the city promote a design that goes against the safety guidelines of MnDOT?

SOS presents substantial evidence and research on its website showing that there are better options to improve cycling on Summit while preserving trees, protecting the historic streetscape, slowing traffic, letting renters and condo owners continue to park near their homes, and making real improvements for pedestrians.

Alice Gebura
Marilyn Bach
Summit Hill

Editor’s note: The writers are both members of SOS.

A lack in transit planning

One notion that guest editorialist Randall O’Toole mentions needs to be shouted from the rooftops (“Off the rails: the state of transportation after COVID-19,” MyVillager, February 22): the debacle of poor security planning for light rail in the Twin Cities. This problem is due directly to the fact that purchasing a fare on light rail is only a suggestion. It is why “the Twin Cities’ light-rail system sees more crimes per billion passenger miles than any other light-rail system in the country.”

That wise leadership was lacking for the taxpayers who foot the bills does not negate what should be the great benefits of public transit. Intelligent planning, not more cars on the road, is what we need.

Celeste Riley
Mendota Heights

Charged up about Xcel levy

I hope all Xcel Energy customers pay close attention to the insert that came with their recent electricity bill and not just toss it. Xcel is proposing that all customers using their electricity pay for the erection and maintenance of 730 new high-speed public charging stations for electric cars across the state. This is like asking all citizens to pay for the building and maintenance of filling stations for people with conventional cars.

I don’t own a conventional car, let alone an electric one. I strongly protest this unfair cost levied on people who will not be using these charging stations. If you agree that this levy is grossly unfair, please contact the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place E., Suite 350, Saint Paul, MN 55101, email consumer.puc@state.mn.us or call 651-296-0406. Comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on April 5.

Kathleen Deming 

Simply safer on Summit Ave.

I have been following the frequent updates of the city of Saint Paul’s plan to “fix” the current bike path along beautiful, tree-lined Summit Avenue. It has reminded me of another plan back in 1997 that was supposed to provide safety to bicyclists along Mississippi River Boulevard. At that time, I made a plea on the these pages for cooler heads to prevail when attempting to “fix” a problem that may not have been that problematic. Eventually, a strip of paint was applied to the southbound lane of River Boulevard, and for the last quarter century that solution has been to everyone’s satisfaction.

Now we are faced with the plan for a Summit Avenue Regional Trail. This plan has drawn a lot more attention, and for good reason. The “fix” appears to be far more obtrusive. In addition to major road work to update aging infrastructure, a complete redo of the bike path has been proposed. As a result, the entire project has been cancelled until a full review can be done to evaluate the impact of the changes. The city and surrounding neighborhoods have been meeting to hash out concerns over the best way to proceed with the least amount of damage.

While all that was going on, I noticed that just this past summer, in conjunction with a mill and overlay project between Snelling Avenue and Lexington Parkway, new markings were added to the street, clearly defining the lanes for parking and biking plus an added buffer zone. This gives everybody—cars, bikes, rollerbladers and runners—the separation that makes us all safer.

As the city works this summer to complete more mill and overlay work between Lexington and Victoria Street and between Snelling and Mississippi River Boulevard, wouldn’t it be valuable to study the efficacy of these low-cost and unobtrusive painted lines? Is it possible that a solution has already been found? That while nobody was looking, the city fixed the issue for us? As I suggested 26 years ago, let’s not complicate the issue.

Chas Jensen

A convenient truth

What a powerful act of nature—as much as 20 inches of snow fell on February 21-23. But the Saint Paul Public Schools and their union fought back, like we knew they would. They came up with two days of online education. Take that, Mother Nature.

The idea of adding two days to the school year—i.e., actual, real teaching—was never considered. With two days of online “education,” everyone is happy. If only every inconvenience could be solved so perfectly.

T.J. Sexton
Highland Park

Not warming to Willow project

As a high school cross-country skier, I value the snow we get each winter. Skiing gives my teammates and me a much-needed escape from school, homework and the other stressors that come with being a high-schooler. With the rise of global warming over the past couple of years, that snow that we cherish and love could be at risk.

ConocoPhillips’ proposed Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska would be one of the largest producers of CO2 in the United States. Sure, it would create thousands of jobs and promote economic growth, but at what cost? The project, if accepted, would contribute more than 250 million metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere and devastate efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The project’s approval would increase global warming to a disastrous level and destroy the snow I know and love.

Gavin Roberts
Highland Park

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