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Altered University Ave. parking plan approved

Posted on 08 March 2016 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE

Businesses along University Ave. will have on-street parking restored later this year, as a result of Feb. 17 St. Paul City Council approval of a parking plan. The plan will provide more than 300 spots between 6pm and 2am. Adding parking back will narrow University and Washington avenues from four lanes to two during those hours.

In the Monitor area, the areas affected by the additional parking hours will be between Emerald to Hampden streets, between Syndicate and Grotto streets, and between Mackubin and Rice streets.
But the plan won’t include adding parking between Aldine St. and Prior Ave. as the Planning

Commission previously recommended. That could affect people who want to visit Dickerman and Iris parks and future evening events there. That’s because the stretch of University is eyed for shared bicycle use, as a connection between bicycle facilities on Charles and Prior avenues. Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes that part of University, said he’d like to see share the road or sharrow  (shared lane) markings on the street as soon as this year. The section of University is identified as a future route in the city’s bike plan.

While Stark joked that the markings might be “sharrows on steroids,” no decisions have been made as to what type of markings would be used and when that would take place. It won’t include a bike lane, as there isn’t space for one.

University is a Ramsey County road, so the county also must sign off on the bike and parking plans. That isn’t likely until March. The Hennepin County Board and Minneapolis City Council must also sign off on the parking plans for the sections of University and Washington in their stretch of roadway.

Proponents would like to see parking restored later this spring or early this summer.

The parking plan has been discussed for several years. It is meant to help St. Paul and Minneapolis businesses that lost parking during Green Line light rail construction and the first years of operation. Most on-street parking on University and Washington avenues was lost as a result of the rail project, which prompted protests all along the route.

The plan recommended by the Planning Commission would have restored about 451 spots in nine areas between Park St. in St. Paul and 23rd Ave. in Minneapolis. It’s not clear exactly how many spaces will be lost by eliminating the Aldine to Prior stretch. Stark estimated that more than 300 spaces will be restored under the plan adopted by the City Council.

Council members said the plan could be changed as needed. The cost of adding parking is about $80,000 for signage. Meters won’t be installed in areas where parking is being added, but that could change if a need to turn spaces over is seen. Parking spaces can also be removed if there are traffic flow problems. The Planning Commission recommended that the parking renewal is viewed as a test and that it be evaluated after a year.

“For the time being, this is a really good compromise,” said Stark. “It’s a relatively inexpensive way to bring back parking.”

One challenge Ward One Council Member Dai Thao noted is that the parking plan was developed before plans emerged for a soccer stadium to be built at Snelling and St. Anthony avenues. Traffic studies for that project are underway. Concerns are already being raised about spillover parking in adjacent neighborhoods.

Although the loss of on-street parking caused an uproar several years ago and drew many comments in online surveys, the Planning Commission and City Council review drew few comments. Christopher Ferguson, a Minneapolis East Bank business owner and Midway Chamber of Commerce Board member, was one of the study leaders.

The Prior-to-Aldine stretch has been the most controversial, prompting a split vote on the Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee in January. Union Park District Council (UPDC) asked that that stretch be removed from the plan, saying that businesses don’t want or need on-street parking in that area. But the committee and full Planning Commission asked that the parking be kept in the plan. Commissioners cited a need for on-street parking when people visit Iris and Dickerman parks.

UPDC’s Land Use Committee discussed the parking proposal in mid-February. Former district council member Mike Madden told the committee that he was dismayed to see the Aldine to Prior parking removed. He said that in 2010 the district council took a position that parking on University should be restored “to the greatest extent possible.”

Committee members said they were aware of the previous district council stance on parking, but that they were trying to balance that with the bike plan, the survey responses, and current conditions. Committee member Benita Warns, who owns and operates two small businesses on Prior, said most businesses in the area are closed at night and don’t need on-street parking during the period that parking is being restored.

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