Make way for the bikeway

The City of St. Paul and Ramsey County are working together to create a bikeway that would connect Larpenteur Avenue to Maryland Avenue via Prosperity Road, Hazelwood Street and Prosperity Avenue.

The county had resurfacing scheduled this year for Prosperity Road and Hazelwood Street, both county roads, providing the opportunity for bike lanes to be painted onto the roads. 

In addition, Prosperity Avenue is scheduled for a process called chip and seal, where oil is sprayed and then gravel is sprinkled on top of existing pavement. Bike lanes will then be painted onto the new road surface.

City and county staff presented the plan to the community during a meeting on Jan. 23 at the Duluth and Case Recreation Center. About 20 residents showed up.

While the residents seemed generally receptive to the project, many shared concerns about public safety and possible assessments for neighbors. 

The St. Paul City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the bike lanes later this year.

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Removed parking

City staffer Luke Hanson said at the meeting that bike lanes make sharing the road safer, because they make bikers more predictable in their own marked space to travel, unlike roads without shared bike lanes. In addition to making the targeted streets safer for bikers, other objectives include connecting to future and existing bike facilities, like future lanes on Larpenteur Avenue. 

The plans are based off the St. Paul Bike Plan and a similar plan from Ramsey County, which are both comprehensive plans for future and existing bike infrastructure routes across the city and county. 

The plans are being implemented slowly as projects, such as resurfacing, are scheduled.

With this particular project, the addition of bike lanes will cause parking to be removed, most likely on the east side of Prosperity Road, Hazelwood Street and Prosperity Avenue.

Last year, city and county staff conducted 13 surveys counting the number of parked cars from 4 to 6 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and  6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays on the targeted roads.

Their surveys found 15 percent parking utilization on the west side of the streets and 9 percent utilization on the east side of the streets. Hanson said because of the low averages, he does not anticipate problems with parking shortages after removing one side of parking.

They also found average speeds on said streets to be between 29 to 32 miles per hour, which Hanson said supports the need for bikers to have a marked space, due to the speed at which traffic travels.

 

Few and far between

Community leaders welcome bike infrastructure in the area, where marked bike lanes are few and far between. 

Chuck Repke, executive director of the District 2 Community Council, which represents the northeast corner of the East Side, said the organization had been pushing the city and county for years to get more bike infrastructure.

“One of the issues that we’ve had concerns about for a long time in District 2 is the limited number of marked bike lanes,” Repke said after the meeting. “So this was positive to hear that the neighbors were generally supportive, or at least not upset with going with the bike lanes.”

He added that the bike lanes don’t cover all the community council’s public safety concerns and that the council will continue to work to address those concerns.

Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough, who also attended the Jan. 23 meeting, said bike infrastructure is a part of the board’s committment to “transportation for all,” explaining that having bike infrastructure provides an alternative to vehicle ownership and transit.  

Last year, the neighborhood barely got bike lanes on Stillwater Avenue, between McKnight Road and Algonquin Avenue, after the city council first rejected and then reintroduced and approved the plan. 

While there are the Bruce Vento and Gateway bike trails, Hanson said at the meeting it’s important to create bike infrastructure for transportation, and not just recreation. 

 

No assessments

While no dates have been set for the project, as the county is still working on contracting, county staff said the project will have little effect on the ability to use the road. Staff said the resurfacing takes just a few weeks. 

The county will also replace curbing and drainage as needed and will also replace the aprons at the ends of the sidewalks to make them ADA compliant.

Once all of that is done, lines will be painted marking both the bike and vehicle traffic lanes.

County staff said there will be no assessments for home owners, as the project is being paid for with funds from gas and wheelage taxes.

Many of those who attended the Jan. 23 meeting had concerns about public safety, like whether the new lanes will be big enough to fit all traffic, and if there are ways to improve crosswalks, especially those near the L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion and Frost Lake Elementary schools. 

Both county and city staff said that changes to crosswalks are certainly issues that can be looked at during this project. 

As for the concerns about lanes sizes, Hanson said 11-foot lanes are being used on many streets across the city and they haven’t had any issues with them so far.

For those who were unable to attend the Jan. 23 meeting but would like to share their comments with planners or find out more information, visit www.stpaul.gov and search for “Prosperity/Hazelwood Bikeway.”

 


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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