St. Paul City Council approves Griggs Street bicycle makeover
By Frederick Melofmelo@pioneerpress.com
Posted: 01/25/2012 12:01:00 AM CST
The St. Paul City Council voted 6-0 to support a new "Bicycle Boulevard" along Griggs Street, with one major change to the proposed north-south bicycle route: Griggs Street will have five traffic circles instead of six.
Construction of the $520,000 bikeway between Summit and Minnehaha avenues will begin this summer, with new traffic circles at Portland, Laurel, Sherburne, Edmund and Blair avenues, along with other bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly flourishes.
Council member Melvin Carter said he'd received numerous comments about the plan and met with residents Tuesday night at the Dunning Recreation Center, where he took in an earful about the traffic circles. Despite some vocal neighborhood opposition, "the communication we've gotten in our office has been about 50/50," he said.
During Wednesday's council meeting, Carter amended the bikeway proposal to remove a proposed traffic circle from the corner of Griggs and Dayton Avenue. He noted that two four-way stops in the area - traffic lights at Marshall Avenue to the north and stop signs at Selby Avenue to the south - already work to calm traffic along that stretch of the street.
After the vote, a group of concerned residents met with Carter and his legislative aide outside the council chambers. Mary and Shane Perry, residents of Dayton Avenue, said they felt blindsided by the project. They began attending public meetings about the bikeway this month and said city staff told them "it was too late to
propose any changes," said Shane Perry, pointing to Carter's amendment as proof to the contrary. "Obviously, it wasn't."
Mary Perry said safety is her biggest concern because of the many school bus stops along Griggs. A driver entering the circle will be looking to the left to make sure another vehicle is not rounding the circle at the same time, she said, and "the kids are at the corner to the right."
The project includes audible, automated alerts telling pedestrians at the corner of Marshall and Griggs when it's safe to cross. Some residents have expressed concern that the alerts will amount to noise pollution and will have to be loud to be heard above the din of nearby ball fields at the Dunning rec center.
Carter said city staff will conduct a traffic study to measure traffic counts and crashes before the circles are installed. He asked that a report be issued two years after the circles are constructed to compare data and see how they're performing.
During the council meeting, council member Russ Stark - who lives near a traffic circle - noted that circles are sometimes confused with their larger cousins, multilane roundabouts, which can be confusing for drivers to navigate. The city has nine traffic circles and drivers adjust quickly, he said.
City planners maintain that multicar crashes decrease by 75 percent at traffic circles.
Bicycle enthusiasts say bike-friendly routes running north and south through the city are long overdue. During a public hearing last week, Andy Singer of the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition said that in the four miles between Raymond and Western avenues, there are only five north-south streets that cross Interstate 94 and the "chasm" created by the BNSF, Union Pacific and Central Pacific rail lines.
Efforts to turn Jefferson Avenue into a more bike-friendly route hit a snag last year when residents there objected to a traffic diverter at Cleveland Avenue. City staff began having public meetings on the Griggs Street project in October.
Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172. Follow him at twitter.com/FrederickMelo.