by Jane McClure
Dale Street Bridge schedule unveiled
The $14.7 million Dale Street Bridge over Interstate 94 will bring improved walkways and bike access when it is completed in 2020. But the project will bring months of disruption to area neighborhoods. More than 70 people joined the Ramsey County Department of Public Works Nov. 21, 2019 for a preview of construction timing and one more look at bridge plans.
The project goes out for bid in February, with work starting after that. The bridge is to be fully open for traffic in fall 2020, although some landscaping and other work could extend later.
The new bridge will provide 16 feet of pedestrian, bike and plaza space on either side, two 11-foot lanes of motor vehicle traffic in each direction, and 12-foot turn lanes. Dale between University and Iglehart avenues will be rebuilt, with new sidewalks, new street lighting and corner bump-outs added.
A former service station property at the northeast corner of Dale and St. Anthony will be open space, with a direct sidewalk and a winding “switchback” walkway to allow for easier access of what is a steep slope.
The $14.7 million project is covered with a mix of federal, state and local funding. The only assessments for adjacent property owners along Dale will be for above-standard street lighting. Those costs haven’t been calculated.
Those at the meeting had questions about detours, cut-through traffic, access for buses, snow plowing and access to homes, place of worship and businesses. County officials plan to post a question and answer section on the project website. The project will also have a dedicated community engagement worker to help get the word out about detours and other issues.
Bridge planning and community involvement in bridge design have taken place over the last few years, with several community meetings, said Ramsey County Project Engineer Erin Laberee. Much of the historic Rondo neighborhood was wiped out during freeway construction, and one goal is to have a new bridge’s public art honor that community.
“The original bridge was built in 1961, and expanded in 1983,” said Laberee. “It’s time for it to be replaced.”
Fate of BP station up in the air
It will likely be early 2020 before the fate of the crime-ridden BP gas station at 1347 University Ave. W. is known. The troubled business was the focus of an administrative law judge hearing in mid-November. St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) officials contend that the business should have its operating licenses revoked. Owner Khal Aloul has fought the city’s actions and is trying to keep the business open.
A homicide in the parking lot and ongoing allegations of drug dealing, fighting, loitering, city license violations and other crime have area residents and business owners demanding change. Incidents at the property have been live-streamed.
In one Police Department video shown at the hearing, an employee explains how scouring pads and glass tubes were used to make kits for smoking crack. The employee also admitted selling single cigarettes and cigars in violation of city ordinances.
At the hearing, Hamline Midway Coalition presented testimony that included more than 280 survey responses. The focus was on how behavior at BP impacts neighborhood residents, businesses and commuters. DSI and the City Attorney’s Office have focused on a long history of license violations and crimes.
St. Paul has used an administrative law judge process in license matters since the 1990s when facts in a case are in dispute. Attorneys for the city and the business have until Dec. 20 to submit their first round of closing arguments, with further filings possible until Jan. 10. The judge then has up to 30 days in which to make a ruling, which then goes back to the St. Paul City Council for action. That is expected in February, where there will be another public hearing. No date has been set.
Trash rates to be reduced
St. Paul’s 2020 residential trash disposal rates will decrease, over protests from the six-member garbage hauler consortium serving the city. The St. Paul City Council Nov. 13 voted unanimously to approve 2020 rates. The total decrease is $1 million for the $27 million contract, and not the $2.5 million increase haulers initially sought.
Nor would the city agree to freeze rates at the 2019 level for the first six months of 2020, another request the haulers made. The rates go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
On average, property owners will see about a $10 per year decrease.
At public hearings in November, an attorney for St. Paul Haulers LLC spoke against the rate package, as did Sue Stewart of Highland Sanitation. Both cited increased costs.
Organized collection, which is entering its second year, serves one to four-unit residential buildings. Council members and Department of Public Works staff said that with one year’s data on hand, they have actual garbage tonnage to factor in. The tonnage collected for the first year of the program is 56,000 tons.
Council members and Department of Public Works staff stood firm, saying that if tonnage went down, so should rates paid.