The Saint Paul City Council got a chance to ask questions about the mayor's proposed Public Works budget today and the topic of Ayd Mill Road
What follows is Ward 3 Council Member Chris Tolbert's interchange with Director Kathy Lantry on the proposed changes to Ayd Mill Road, with some annotation by me.
Council Member Tolbert:
I have a few questions. I think it might be good to have some sort of follow up. To be clear mill and overlay won’t happen this year as council directed and allocated, right?
That is correct.
And there’s no mitigation strategies for Lexington or other roads, including the Lexington bike paths we just added and the other road diets stuff we did over the last 10 years to mitigate the traffic on that street, which includes 4 schools and a rec center on two blocks on it.
[It's worth pointing out that Lexington Parkway is a County road, and I am not sure what the point is here. Also, the term "mitigation" is strange. What are we mitigating? Speeding? "Traffic calming" is a better way of looking at this, especially if there are four schools and a rec center nearby. The concern is traffic speeding through residential streets? Funding for bumpouts, tightened curbs, maybe starting/finishing the bike boulevard, would be a way to shape that. We should prioritize reducing speeding through design features.]
I am going to check with my staff. The answer is not that we just assume the traffic is going to goo there, and we’re not going to do anything about it. Because I don’t think that’s the case I can certainly follow up with you about how we’re thinking bout those changes.
[The assumption seems to be that the two-lane Ayd Mill Road is not going to be able to handle 20,000 cars a day. It's worth noting that a two-lane road can handle significant traffic volumes. The West River Road peaks around 10,000 cars a day. This road should have good performance as it is grade separated and there are few intersections. Id' be interested in a traffic engineer prediction about this. I guess we'll find out. My best guess is that 15% goes to other regional routes, 15% goes to nearby arterials, 10% simply disappears, the rest of the cars stay on the two-lane road only going a bit slower but without any potholes.]
Can you tell us where the $5.2M comes from?
Sure. The plan had $3.5M allocated to the mill and overlay of this road. Remember we’re making a one-way road into a two-way road. There are a ton of changes that have to happen there because of the on- and off-ramps. So the total estimated costs there are $5.2. So we have the $3.5M, and the additional $1.7M will be added to the street reconstruction bond sale this spring.
OK, is that coming from the bike path fund?
For 2020 our recommendation for how you pay for the debt service on that additional $1.7, which finance tells me is $111K a year for 2020, is coming from the designated bike and ped fund. It uses $111K out of the $500K total.
[Um, this is not really a bike and ped project. It's a road reduction project, a climate action project, a traffic calming project, and long-term fiscal savings project. The bike and ped path is sort of a side effect of the larger policy decision about what this road should be and how the city should pay for it. It's a bit unfortunate that the $500K of dedicated bike funding is going, not to a regular bike plan project, but to clean up a problematic freeway. At least that's my view.]
The administration made this decision and is there any plan to have this public process either with citizens or with the council on how to implement this, or whether or not this decision should be made?
Director Lantry: [Displaying wise incaution, because nobody nobody wants to have another task force or panel or committee or public meeting about this damnable project.]
Ayd Mill Road is a street that has been studied for decades. That is not an overstatement. When we go out to the public to ask for feedback, and then you don’t intend to take it, it's is a waste of everyone’s time. The current city policy is to look at bike and ped infrastructure and ask if it fits into how we use our infrastructure. And so we’re happy to provide information about the timeline and items that we expect to do, but I want to be careful that if we have some public process and you’re looking for feedback and people say "don’t do it" and the intent is to go through with it, I don’t know that that’s the best way to go. Certainly we're hearing people’s opinions. We have a little briefing memo that we sent to some Council Members. We can send that briefing memo to adjacent district council asking if they have anyone from Public Works attend their meetings.
Ayd Mill Road needs to come back to this Council because we’re not part of this decision. The last decision we made was to Mill and Overlay it this year, and its not going to get done this year, which is a shame because its in terrible shape. [For the record, the "discussion" about the Ayd Mill Road mill and overlay was also done with almost zero notice or discussion. Public Works simply announced it, and there was a City Council hearing where almost nobody asked any questions. CM Noecker and CM Jalali Nelson were the only ones to meaningfully interrogate Director Lantry about it at all.]
All the arguments we made last year, and its not going to get done this year.
The other thing is I appreciate your statement on public process I personally its important to me what my constituents think and I’m hearing a lot about it both for and against the proposal. And I suspect my colleagues are too. The budget thing last Wednesday, with one or two exceptions, we spent 90% of our time discussing Ayd Mill Road. Citizens are interested in what it has to say because this an important decision that will affect the neighborhoods and the arterial streets that are on there and hope it comes back to this council.
I did receive a really interesting idea from some constituent the idea was to do the mill and overlay on portion of AMR that’s the two-way street first, and then, because bike and ped improvements require different kids of treatments for on- and off- ramps, hold off on that part. But it would effectively be proceeding on the two-lane option and then seeing how that goes before you make a commitment to completing the bike and ped portion of that. I thought it was a way to handle it in the short term that might potentially save us some money. Wanted to put that out there. [Not a terrible suggestion but it also is not a money-saving one. The bike path is the cheapest part of this project. It's probably a zero-cost expense because you'd have been paving that part of the road regardless. The real expenses come from pouring new concrete to reconfigure the car traffic, and adding in all the signs and new signals needed.]
I'm hearing we would like to continue this conversation about this particular project we’ll work through Holly to get things set up to continue to have that. [More conversation about Ayd Mill Road. What fun!.]