|[CM Thao talking to the group riders.]|
At the end of the ride, there were some speeches by notable elected or appointed officials , including the wonderful County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo, Ward One Council Member Dai Thao, and Mayor Carter's Chief Resilience officer, (and former Council President) Russ Stark.
Both Thao and Stark gave speeches before the Sierra Club's bike-riding, greenway-loving crowd. Because they both mentioned Ayd Mill road in their speeches, I'm transcribing them for you here. If you're following the epic tragic hopeful saga that is Ayd Mill Road, I think you'll be interested in what they have to say.
First, Ward One Council Member Dai Thao:
[Note that the first part of Thao's speech was about riding bicycles in Minneapolis as a young boy. I did not transcribe it.]
Thank you for promoting health. As an Eagle Scout one of the important things for me is environmental justice. It's so easy for us to construct something man-made, but for our earth and our environment, it takes millions of years. To save our hills, our mountains, our landscape, our treescape, and so its important that we protect our environment.
And part of making sure we have equitable transportation is [that it's] a vehicle where you preserve our environment so that future generations, and our kids, and their kids, and their kids, can enjoy and they can look back, and its because of y’all coming together, taking responsibility, and working with office holders and policymakers to ensure that the future voices can be heard. I really appreciate you all doing this, and leading this effort.
I want to thank Joshua for inviting me to speak today.
And most of you probably want me to talk about Ayd Mill Road. And so, you know, look, so I was surprised when the Mayor announced that at the budget address because I wish I had known that in advance, and it wouldn’t be a surprise. And then, after that, I had meeting with Kathy Lantry, the Public Works director, and I asked here where the money’s going to be coming from? Are we going to cone it off? Are we going to model it? Just so there’s a process, right?
Just like if somebody made a decision to not do the bike plan, or if somebody made a decision to take away a bike path, you all would want fairness. You all would want a process so that you could be at the table to see how its going to be implemented, and how its going to work out. And if there’s any mitigation that needs to be done, you would want to have money and resources to mitigate those issues.
One of the hard and important things about being an elected official is that we get to hear from all sides of the story. I think that most people support the changes to Ayd Mill Road. But I think that, as government, we need to be transparent. We can’t just tell people what to do. We can’t just tell them that this is the right thing to do.
One of the examples that we did, the organized trash, there are several things we could have done to save all that [from becoming a] fiasco. That is, maybe implement it, to do one ward at a time, so we could fix all the glitches.
I’m saying this as being in the IT industry for 20 years, and when we do data migration or update from Windows 2000 to Windows 365, we don’t migrate the data all at once. We don’t do all the migration, we do department by department, and we fix those and then we implement them organization wide.
Just with these thoughts, I look forward to having this conversation with you, and we’re going to do, we’re going to make Ayd Mill Road work for everyone. And we all need to be at the table, and lets make this work for everybody, and I look forward to making this work for the road ahead.
Thank you so much.
After CM Thao, Russ Stark from the Mayor's Office took the microphone:
With regard to bike infrastructure, we are really excited about the greenway. I've personally been involved in that idea for almost 20 years now. I’m really excited that the Sierra Club and the Greenway Coalition and others are keeping the dream alive on this. It's really great work. there’s a really good opportunity for us to create a wonderful piece of infrastructure. It’s a long way forward and its not going to be easy, but I’m really looking forward to doing that together.
With regard to what we’re doing here in Saint Paul, there a few things to comment on. Mayor Carter created our city’s first ever, with the council’s support, ongoing funding for bikeways in the city. Its five hundred thousand dollars, and it's the first year we’ve had that funding in place. It's a really good start, but we have more work to do.
Number two, thanks to a change in state law, we are working with our partners both here and across the river in Minneapolis to look at opportunities to lower speed limits on city streets. This is something that a lot of us have been wanting to do for a long time. It is one of a series of things we’re going to have to do to to make our streets safer for everyone. It's one of the key things we need to do.
Number three, the Ayd Mill Road proposal. This proposal is literally 20 years in the making, in many ways. Some of you may not know that 21 years ago the city of Saint Paul created a task force of community folks to look at the Ayd Mill Road corridor. That actually ended up recommending tearing the thing out and putting in a park.
We never found the resources to do that, and it was not supported by mayors back then. And this idea of a two-lane roadway was identified by the Council back then, and then reiterated by two young council members, Melvin Carter and Russ Stark, back in 2009 as the preferred plan with a bikeway.
Ayd Mill Road is the most studied road in the history of Saint Paul. There is nothing more to study. We know exactly what will happen when we make changes to the roadway. Some of our suburban neighbors will choose a different route to get from the suburbs to downtown Minneapolis. That’s what will happen. The rest of us who actually have to make local trips here in Saint Paul will continue to do what we’re doing, and the road will still be able to carry lots of cars.
It will just also carry tons of bikes and people, and that’s really the idea. Thank you all for doing what you’re doing. Again, the mayor sends his regrets. He appreciates everything that you’re doing, and have a great rest of your weekend here.
There you go!
Make of it what you will, and feel free to post comments or reactions here. I would currently put the odds of this road project happening at 4:1 in favor, though there are still plenty of things that could change that, including a big City Council election in November.