Input sought on studies of Snelling Avenue, Central Corridor

Studies of two major St. Paul transit and transportation corridors need input from people with disabilities. Making 2.4 miles of Snelling more useful to all modes of transportation is the goal of a year-long multi-modal transportation study led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

Work on the Snelling Avenue multi-modal study winds down in early 2013. A comment period on the study ends on Jan. 11, 2013. MnDOT hopes to have a final report completed soon after that.

The study can then be used by various groups to implement Snelling Avenue improvements. William Goff is the MnDOT project manager. Comments can be made to william.goff@state.mn.us or at 651-234-7797.

State and local officials want people to weigh in on the plans, which are shown online area by area from Selby Avenue to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Asummary of the draft plan will be posted later in December. The study home page is at www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/snellingstudy/

More than 50 people attended a Nov. 27 open with bike corrals to reconfiguring intersections. Snelling Avenue can be a great divide for pedestrians and bicyclists. Traveling alongside Snelling can be an intimidating. The sidewalks are narrow in many places. Many of the intersection ramps don’t meet current Americans with Disability Act (ADA) regulations.

Snelling is the major north-south truck and through traffic route to the western part of St. Paul. It carries about 43,000 motor vehicles per day in the south end of the study area. It is used by major bus lines and is eyed for St. Paul’s first bus rapid transit line.

The study has goals of finding more area bike routes, providing direct and accessible routes to key destinations and making comprehensive multi-modal improvements all along Snelling. These will include better street and sidewalk lighting, curb extensions, new and improved crosswalks, better transit shelters and landscaping.

Many Snelling intersections would be redesigned to make crosswalks safer and in some cases to redirect turning vehicles. On cross streets and on Snelling, more signage would be added reminding motorists to watch for crosswalks and pedestrians. Traffic signals would be upgraded, with accommodations for people who are visually impaired so they could hear when it is safe to cross. Most of the intersections aren’t compliant with federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards and would have to be rebuilt.

A second study in need of input from people with disabilities is the Central Corridor Walkability Survey, at http://dcc-stpaulmpls.org/special-projects/walk. The light rail line will connect downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, starting operations in 2014. Transportation models forecast 40,000 weekday riders by 2030. Models also predict that 68% of all Green Line riders will be walking to their stations. In the case of the Dale Street Station it is 80%. Riders may walk up to a half-mile or more to reach their station.

Over the past several months volunteers have traveled streets leading to and from the light rail line, to identify areas where there are barriers such as missing sidewalks, poor lighting and unsafe street crossings. The District Councils Collaborative (DCC), a group of St. Paul and Minneapolis community groups, began the walkability survey earlier this year. The collaborative collected 376 surveys thus far, with more than 1,130 map notations and more than 1,163 comments house at Hamline University to view draft recommendations, which range from replacing parking spaces about pedestrian realm concerns and assets. Data was sorted into four major categories:

1. physical environment;

2. traffic and safety;

3. accessibility; and

4. walking experience.

DCC leaders said more comments are needed from people with disabilities who will use the light rail line and who will be affected by access to and from train states. How those comments will be gathered was still being determined when the December issue of Access Press went to press. One challenge as that some people found the online survey hard to use.

In station area planning workshops held over the past seventh months, many residents talked about pedestrian environments that are difficult if not impossible to maneuver. In some areas, especially in the West Midway, there are blocks without sidewalks. Some neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul have poor lighting conditions at night. Many street crossings are unsafe and lack accommodations for people with disabilities.

According to a DCC report, “Problems such as these are especially prevalent in neighborhoods with a history of disinvestment and large numbers of people who are transit-dependent. This creates an inequality in the pedestrian realm, making it more difficult for those with the greatest need, including the elderly, disabled, and families with children to access public transit.”

The survey findings will eventually be presented government agencies, to engage elected officials in the development and implementation of strategies to address the most urgent pedestrian realm improvements before the Green Line opens for service in 2014.

Contact the DCC at info@dcc-stpaul-mpls.org or call 651-528-8165.