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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

West Midway bikeway approved by Council; parking to be lost

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
St. Paul’s first-ever two-way, separated bikeway will be installed this summer on Pelham Blvd. in Desnoyer Park neighborhood and Myrtle St. in the West Midway. On June 7 the St. Paul City Council approved the Pelham plans, which also include connections along Myrtle and Raymond avenues in the West Midway. The project has a cost of $250,000.

After public hearings were held June 7 and 21, the Council laid over until July 19 its vote on amendments to the citywide Bicycle Plan. The citywide plan changes include details of the Capital City bikeway under construction downtown, and the Grand Round, which Pelham is a part of.

The Pelham bike connection will complete a section of the Grand Round, a 19th-century plan to build a citywide system of bike and walking trails. The Pelham section of the bikeway will have side-by-side bike lanes on the east side of the street, separated from motor vehicle traffic by white plastic delineators. The delineators, which are in use in Minneapolis, are seeing their first bike-related use in St. Paul.

Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes Pelham, said the project had taken a long time to get approved. He is concerned that a good parking solution hasn’t been found for the south end of Pelham, where parking will be removed from both sides of the street between Doane Ave. and Mississippi River Blvd.

Pelham will lose all on-street parking, except for the west side between St. Anthony and Doane avenues. There is currently parking on one side of the street in most areas, with two-sided parking between Otis Ave. and Mississippi River Blvd.

Stark said he is excited about the project and is pleased to see the new type of bike facility installed. “We’re behind the times in that regard,” Stark said. He said he’ll keep a careful eye on the project and if there are problems, he’ll be the first to speak up and seek changes.

Reuben Collins of the St. Paul Department of Public Works recommended that the project go ahead. It has been through several months of community review. “Pelham has been a bikeway for some years with ‘share the road’ signs,” said Collins. The city has received many complaints from cyclists contending that they don’t feel safe on Pelham as it is now, with speeding motor vehicles.

Collins said putting the Pelham project in place gives city staff a chance to see how such a bike facility would work. The project is also called a “cycle track.”

Plans call for taking parking off of Pelham and off of one side of Myrtle, a short street linking Pelham and Raymond. Collins said plans call for removing parking for both sides of Myrtle, but one side was kept as a compromise. Myrtle will become a one-way westbound street for motor vehicles.

One area of concern is where Pelham intersects with Mississippi River Blvd. and that street’s bike lane and shared the bike-pedestrian trail. Desnoyer Park residents said trail users park on Pelham so that they can walk the trail.

Dave Tierney lives near Pelham and Mississippi River Blvd. He bikes to Minneapolis for work and appreciates the Pelham work done with the available funding. But Tierney is concerned about safety, given Pelham’s condition. “Can we do better?”

“The street surface is a problem,” said Tierney. Pelham has many patched and emerging potholes and crevices and is a bumpy ride. Tierney is concerned about the safety of cyclists coming down the Pelham hill and turning onto Mississippi River Blvd.

Theresa Olson lives on Pelham near Desnoyer Park’s namesake park. She understands the need to remove parking from one side of the street but said it will cause hardships for guests, Metro Mobility, and contractor vehicles.

Supporters said the bikeway will provide safety for cyclists and will be a win-win for everyone, and that the project does retain parking in many places. Like opponents, they asked for several safety considerations, either now or when Pelham is eventually rebuilt. Several speakers said the street needs to be reconstructed sooner rather than later. Supporters asked for measures including a 25-mile per hour speed limit, signage to prevent parking in the bike lanes and measures to calm traffic.

Drew Ross is a past president of the Desnoyer Park Improvement Association and represents the neighborhood on Union Park District Council. Ross said community groups support the plan, which has been on the drawing boards since 2013. He said long-term changes need to be studied, but that interim measures should put in place soon.

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