By JANE MCCLURE
A one-block section of Roy St. between Spruce Tree Dr. and Shields Ave. will be converted from one-way to two-way traffic, the St. Paul City Council decided Feb. 27. No date has been set for conversion, but it is expected before Major League Soccer starts at Allianz Field in April. Roy St. between Shields and St. Anthony avenues remains one-way going north.
The change is being made as part of the changes in the University and Snelling avenues’ area, in response to soccer stadium development. The traffic signal was removed at Snelling and Spruce Tree Dr. A new signal was placed at Shields and Snelling avenues. A median and fence were placed on Snelling south of University.
More changes could be possible, as the traffic study for Allianz Field and Midway Center redevelopment is supposed to be released soon. Initial studies were done a few years ago as part of an alternative urban areawide review, but area district councils, residents and businesses have waited many months for the more detailed study.
The change, which won support from the Union Park District Council, was discussed several weeks ago at a neighborhood meeting. It’s not exactly known why the block was designated for one-way traffic. Some longtime area residents believe it was an effort to prevent cut-through traffic from heading from University Ave. to Interstate 94 almost 50 years ago. Fry south of Shields and north of St. Anthony Ave. will remain one-way.
“This is only affecting one block that for many years has been a one-way street,” said Elizabeth Stiffler of St. Paul Public Works.
The street is wide enough to have two-sided parking, even with the traffic change. “I know parking is critical in that area,’ said Stiffler.
A neighboring church, Bethlehem Lutheran Church-in-the-Midway, 436 N. Roy St., raised concerns about parking and traffic. Another concern brought up by Interim pastor Scott Simmons is that the church had only a few days’ notice about the pending change and public hearing.
“We’re not necessarily opposed to the two-way idea,” Simmons said. “but we want to raise strong concerns about parking.” This winter, the snow is piled so high on city streets that two-sided parking and two-way traffic isn’t possible in many places. “You can’t get two-way traffic up and down that street now.”
Simmons spoke not just on behalf of the church but also for Open Hands Midway, a social services nonprofit it houses that serves up to 300 people each week with a meal and other assistance. Some services and meals are offered outside during the summer, with hundreds of people lining up for help.
Simmons also asked the city to consider looking on an ongoing basis at parking as well as traffic. The change to the Shields stop light has meant more cut-through traffic in a north-south Roy-Snelling alley beside the church. With new housing planned along Snelling, Simmons said there need to be measures taken to address traffic.
Ward Four Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson said she’d continue to work with the church, other neighbors and the district council. Changes can be made later to address traffic and parking concerns.
Owners of Spruce Tree Center and the Midway Chamber of Commerce, which has offices at Spruce Tree, weighed in to support the change. Other tenants of Spruce Tree, which is at the southwest corner of University and Snelling avenues, also support the change. A recently installed Snelling median means northbound motorists can no longer make a westbound or left-hand turn onto Spruce Tree Dr. Spruce Tree Center representative said the two-way street was offered as a way to address the traffic flow issues with changes to Spruce Tree Dr.
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