Making Snelling Ave. Complete, Part II

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The meeting was packed!

Last week the North Star Chapter and partner orgs held our very well-attended Complete Streets Workshop to give local citizens the tools to make Snelling Ave a Complete Street. The resurfacing of Snelling Ave is an opportunity that comes around only every few decades, so it is essential that we make sure it gets done right in order to make it a street we can all use well in to the future.

What are Complete Streets?

Complete streets are designed and operated to be safe and accessible for pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists, and drivers – all users, regardless of age or ability. A Complete Streets policy integrates the needs of all users into everyday transportation planning and design to gradually create a completer network of roads that serve all users.

Complete streets vary by context and typically include sidewalks, safe crossings, bike lanes or bike paths, as well as textured curb ramps for wheelchair users and the visually impaired.

Complete Streets potential (national statistics)

  • 50% of all trips are 3 miles or less
  • 28% of all trips are 1 mile or less
  • 72% of all trips 1 mile or less are driven

Benefits of Complete Streets

  • Safety
  • Accessibility – 40% of Minnesotans do not drive
  • Improved Health – community members are more likely to walk if sidewalks are present and likely to commute by bicycle if bike lanes are present.

Why Snelling Ave?

Snelling Avenue (Highway 51) has the highest accident rate of any street in Minnesota. It is a very high traffic arterial street that does not currently serve any of its users well, however it is especially poorly designed to meet the needs of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists. Community members at the Complete Streets Workshop raised a number of concerns mainly concerning pedestrian safety, driver education, the dangerous Snelling bridge, and the concern that Snelling should be treated as a main artery for ALL traffic, not just cars. Here is a list of concerns that was brought up at the meeting:

Pedestrian safety:

  • Pedestrian signals – timed too short to allow crossing, not enough signaled crossing, not enough pedestrian priority
  • Crosswalk law enforcement – failure to stop at non‐signaled crossings and allowing pedestrian right of way
  • Sidewalk connectivity
  • Safety around commercial and business centers
  • Snelling and University crossing – increased pedestrian crossings to catch bus transfers but not enough time or signals

Accessibility

  • sidewalk maintenance problems
  • illegal crossramps
  • utility and light poles in sidewalk
  • sidewalk connectivity
  • snow removal

Speed of traffic as safety issue

  • Excessive road width and lanes increases traffic speed and hinders crossing
  • inconsistent or no visual cues to reduce speed

Visibility of pedestrians and bicyclists

    Driver Education/Awareness

    • Inattentive/aggressive drivers
    • failure to accept bicycle and pedestrian use of road
    • lack of education around bicycle and pedestrian use of road

    Lack of bicycle facilities – increases danger for all users

    Snelling as main artery for all modes of transportation

    Bridge:

    • Speeding cars on and after bridge
    • Biking, walking and bussing on and across the bridge
    • On and off ramps, curb lanes

    Lack of sheltered bus stop

    About the Current Project

    At the meeting MnDOT explained that the update of Snelling falls under the umbrella of Preservation and Maintenance projects, which means Mn/DOT is working to maintain the existing infrastructure and make any necessary safety improvements. These preservation projects address maintaining the pavement surface and associated items and stays within the existing right of way for the roadway.

    The first project (SP 6215‐91) is a pavement preservation project along Highway 51 from West 7th Street to Dayton Avenue. It includes work on both Montreal Ave. and Snelling Ave. The work scoped involves the removal and replacement of two inches of the bituminous pavement on Snelling Ave. between Dayton Ave. and Montreal Ave., and removal and replacement of four inches of asphalt pavement on Montreal Ave. between Snelling Ave. and 7th Street. The work will also include some drainage repair to catch basins and a small amount of curb replacement, along with the upgrade of pedestrian ramps to meet PROWAG guidelines. St. Paul plans to install APS at the signalized intersections within the project limits while Mn/DOT is working on pedestrian curb ramp upgrades.

    The second project (SP 6215‐90) is a pavement preservation project along Highway 51 from Pierce Butler Ave. to Como Ave. It includes concrete rehabilitation of the existing pavement between the bridges within the project limits: most of these will be spot repairs to remove and replace any deteriorating portions of the concrete pavement. Mn/DOT will also mill and overlay the bituminous shoulder and mill and overlay the ramps at Snelling and Pierce Butler, Snelling and Energy Park Drive, and the southern ramps at Como and Snelling. Work does not occur north of Como Avenue itself. Other work will include ramp widening at Pierce Butler to better accommodate semi tractor trailers, and some minor drainage repair work.

    Work will begin in late spring on Snelling at Dayton, stretching south to Montreal and over to West Seventh Street and continue into the fall, breaking for the Minnesota State Fair. The bridge project is slated to begin after Labor Day.

    What the community wants

    The workshop brought together people from all walks of life – transit activists, cyclists, and community members from the affected areas near Snelling Ave. The overarching desire of all of these groups was to make sure that Snelling Avenue be made into a street that could serve all users safely, and that MnDOT take the accessibility of all into account whenever it plans a street resurfacing like this one. Two main discussions were had in that vein – one about bicyclist and pedestrian concerns, and one about specific community concerns.

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    Comment cards filled out at the meeting

    Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety and Facility Needs (facilitated by Steve Clark from TLC)

    At the workshop Steve highlighted problem areas on Snelling Ave/TH51, illustrating barriers for safe, efficient and accessible walking and biking. He also provided case study bexamples of streets around the country with similar issues and explained how they used complete street principles to solve the infrastructure problems. Mr. Clark offered several possible solutions to these biking and walking barriers, specifically on the Snelling Avenue bridge and Montreal Avenue.

    The following topics were covered during the discussion section:

    Best practice recommendations that could be applied to Snelling Ave bridge

    • Use appropriate warning signage to alert drivers of pedestrians
    • Install stop signs to eliminate free‐flow right turns onto Snelling bridge
    • Install adequate pedestrian‐scale lighting
    • Allow road shoulders to be used as bike lanes
    • Use colorized markings or dashed lines for bike lanes in conflict zones
    • Paint bike lanes for the ramps leading to Snelling Ave.
    • Construct entrance ramps to interest Snelling at a right angle or construct right turn slip lanes with tighter angles to facilitate slower traffic entering Snelling and make pedestrians/people on bicycles more visible to drivers

    Lane width

    • Reduction of AASHTO standard from 12 foot lanes, to 11 foot lanes with further reduction to 10 feet depending on the conditions

    Survivability Rates for pedestrian and bicyclists in accidents with automobiles

    • 20 mph – 95% survivability rate
    • 30 mph – 55%
    • 40 mph ‐ 15%

    Bicycle and pedestrian facilities increase safety of all users

    Community Conversation about Snelling Ave as a Complete Street (facilitated by Ethan Fawley of the Sierra Club)

    Ethan helped facilitate a community conversation about needed changes to Snelling Ave to make it more accessible by all members of the community; the greatest concern of all was in how those improvements would help increase the overall safety of all road users.

    The following topics were covered during the discussion section:

    • Lack of long‐term plan for Snelling by Mn/DOT
    • Need to plan for children, safety, pedestrian, and bicycle use in high amenity areas such as Highland Park: Frisbee golf, playground, circus, golf, park, pool, schools…
    • Planning for 8 to 80 years – independent seniors and children
    • Bicycles allowed on all roads in MN, signage is unnecessary and creates further confusion
    • People drive to conditions of the road way, not the speed limit
      • visual cues are low cost changes
      • many traffic calming tools are low cost planning options
    • Separate bike and pedestrian bridge
    • Safety of customers walking, parking on Snelling
    • 85th Percentile policy
      • Speed zones are established after MnDOT conducts an engineering and traffic investigation that analyzes factors like roadway design, physical characteristics, traffic volume, crash history, and observed speeds. MnDOT’s policy is that the limit should normally be set near the 85th percentile (the speed at or below which 85 percent of vehicles travel).
    • Mn/DOT is “certainly willing to work with [the] Montreal Segment” about bicycle facilities on Montreal with considerations for safety, speed, road capacity and truck routing
    • Mn/DOT is working with the Minneapolis community on a similar request for Central Avenue’s upcoming preservation project

    What you can do to help!

    Community engagement in road projects is incredibly important, and it is vital to gain the support of the city in providing safe, efficient, and accessible pedestrian and bicycle facilities. If you want to have a say in how your roads are resurfaced and created, we you can contact your city council members and representatives to voice any concerns and encourage action around these issues.

    Council Members:

    • Russ Stark, Ward 4: (651) 266‐8640
    • Pat Harris, Ward 3: (651) 266‐8630
    • Melvin Carter, Ward 1: (651) 266‐8610
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