Reading the Highland Villager Op-Ed Extra #5
by Mike Madden
Neighborhoods First appreciates the attention that the Vintage/Whole Foods Market project has brought to the congested traffic conditions at the intersection of Selby and Snelling avenues and the unfinished business of Ayd Mill Road. yet, of the six potions that have been considered for reconstructing or replacing Ayd Mill Road, it is the linear park that best complements The Vintage and delivers the greatest benefit to the people of St. Paul.
With the adoption of the Central corridor Development Strategy in 2007, it seemed the city of St. Paul had turned a corner in understanding the relationship between transportation and land use and the need to reduce reliance on the automobile as a strategy for growth and environmental protection. The transportation infrastruucture supporting The Vintage, nominally a transit-oriented development, is almost entirely automobile-oriented, with the proposed $50 million extension of Ayd Mill Road as Exhibit A.
The St. Paul Department of Public Works has also recommended converting a portion of the Selby Avenue sidewalk to a right-turn lane and extending the left-turn lane on southbound Snelling Avenue north to Dayton Avenue. This is the sort of 1950s transportation planning that hollowed out our cities. It beckons automobiles and discourages walking, biking, and transit use.
At one-fifth the cost, replacing Ayd Mill Road with a linear park would deliver the same relief from traffic congestion on Selby as would connecting Ayd Mill Road to I-94. The linear park also provides green space and reduces emissions.
There are several transit plans on the table that would complement The Vintage. Snelling Avenue bus rapid transit is one. The Central Corridor EIS also envisioned new bus routes on Fairview and Hamline avenues. Together with a Route 21 that no longer detours to Midway Center, these transit improvements would move us closer to a transit grid.
A Canadian Pacific Rail alingment of commuter rail thorugh Merriam Park is a project found in the region's 2020 Transitway Plan. It would connect the Red Rock and North Star commuter rail lines, and with its proposed station at Snelling and Marshall, it would be of obvious benefit to The Vintage and to the people of St. Paul
Neighborhoods First commends Ryan Companies and Whole Foods for providing ample and protected bicycle parking, but once again we see that a good redevelopment project is not being supported with the proper infrastructure. Snelling Avenue is not bikeable, and Selby is not much better.
The extension of the Midtown Greenway bike trail is widely recognized as the most important piece of bicycle infrastructure yet to be built in St. Paul. It would run along the northern edge of the Snelling-Selby development. The city of St. Paul's past efforts to negotiate with CP Rail for biek trail right-of-way have been thwarted; however, with the help of the federal givernment, this project could be realized.
A four-lane extension of Ayd Mill Road to the I-94 frontage roads would do more harm than good. It would take land from Concordia Universituy and displace several businesses, costing St. Paul jobs and tax revenue and offering little if any opportunity for redevelopment. It would result in measuable increases in traffic on St. Clair, Grand and Marshall avenues, and a 130 percent increase in traffic on the residential portion of Concordia Avenue. It would remove the Pascal Street bridge over I-94, and among the alternatives for Ayd Mill Roa,d it would result in the highest level of emissions.
Neighborhoods First recognizes that the linear park would result in traffic increases on Lexington Parkway. That is regrettable. But as we debate the best use for the Ayd Mill Road corridor, let's understand the pros and cons of every alterantive and bear in mind that we can't build our way out of congestion.
Mike Madden, a resident of Merriam Park, is a co-founder of the local advocacy group Neighborhoods First.