City is rushing to meet June deadline for federal funds.
The city of Saint Paul is facing a June deadline to draft a Safe Streets for All Transportation Safety Plan and apply for federal funding to carry out the plan. The plan would identify specific projects, policies and design strategies to eliminate or reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries by addressing the root causes of traffic accidents. Between $5 million and $30 million in federal money is available for that effort.
The Saint Paul Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee reviewed an early version of the plan and made initial recommendations on March 6. Citizens are being asked to help in this effort by filling out a survey of where they have seen or experienced crashes. An initial deadline for the public to weigh in is April 15. Visit stpaul.gov/departments/public-works/transportation-and-transit/transportation-safety-action-plan. The city’s Public Works Department will also collect public comments at community events.
Over the five years of 2018-2022, a total of 16,070 crashes were reported on city streets. They resulted in 58 deaths and 264 serious injuries. Six hundred ninety-nine of the crashes involved pedestrians, with 21 killed and another 111 seriously injured. Two hundred ninety-six of them involved bicyclists.
‘A pretty lofty goal’
David Peterson, a transportation planner for Public Works, is managing the project. He said the intent is to focus on unsafe areas and make major investments to eliminate serious crashes, including those involving motorized vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.
“It’s a pretty lofty goal,” said Lydia Statz, a multi-modal transportation planner with the engineering consulting firm of Kimley-Horn. But it is a goal worth striving for, agreed members of the Transportation Committee.
The plan will draw on crash data. Saint Paul’s rate of crashes is higher than Minnesota’s, but lower than the national crash rate. Over the five years of 2018-2022, a total of 16,070 crashes were reported on city streets. They resulted in 58 deaths and 264 serious injuries. Six hundred ninety-nine of the crashes involved pedestrians, with 21 killed and another 111 seriously injured. Two hundred ninety-six of them involved bicyclists.
Competing with municipalities nationwide
Saint Paul will be competing with municipalities nationwide for a share of the $5 billion that is available through 2026. The city’s goal is to have an initial plan in place by June. The plan would then be shaped over the succeeding months with completion of a more robust plan in 2024 that could be used to apply for the funds in future years.
“This feels really rushed to me,” said Planning Commissioner Brian Martinson.
Public Works staff agreed, but said they want to be able to throw the city’s hat in the ring for funding this year. “This is a super-competitive process,” said Randy Newton, city traffic engineer. “We want to give ourselves as many chances as possible to apply for funding.”
Streets in need of safety improvements
An initial survey of the city shows several streets that could be candidates for major safety improvements, including downtown and sections of University Avenue, West Seventh Street, Rice Street and Maryland Avenue. However, other area streets, such as Cretin Avenue in Merriam Park, have been singled out as unsafe. Areas where motorists tend to speed, run red lights or slide around corners are among those being considered.
“We’ve all seen extreme speed,” said Peterson. “We’ve also seen motorists driving recklessly and running red lights. That’s pretty unsettling to see.”
Some of the more prevalent traffic problems are seen in the city’s lower-income neighborhoods. These are generally areas where residents have not been as engaged in recent city transportation projects.
Past traffic studies are also being reviewed for ideas that are still relevant today. These include improved pedestrian crossings, improved sidewalks, new sidewalks in places where there are none, better sidewalk connections, and various measures to reduce speeds and encourage vehicles to yield to pedestrians.
— Jane McClure
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