Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Dale Street bridge reconstruction plans unveiled

Posted on 11 February 2019 by Calvin

Area travelers who use the Dale St. bridge over I-94 to get around will look forward to its replacement. Plans unveiled in January to a packed room show a new bridge with 16 feet of pedestrian, bike and plaza space on either side, as well as public art elements commemorating the Rondo neighborhood.

The Ramsey County Department of Public Works hosted the meeting, which was the last before design work is completed. County officials received $6 million in federal funds and provided a $5 million local match for the project. The bridge as well as Dale St. between University and Iglehart avenues will be rebuilt in 2020. That’s a delay from the original start date of 2017, but gave more time for public engagement, work on pedestrian and traffic safety issue and adding public art.

Bridge design is about 30 percent complete, with plans to be finished late this summer. Bridge demolition is to start in January 2020, with the project done by fall 2020. Half of the bridge will come down at a time so that one lane of traffic can be maintained in either direction. Travelers should plan on detours. Western Ave. and Victoria St. are the closest multi-use bridges over the freeway. There is a pedestrian/bike bridge at Grotto St.

People generally liked what they saw, especially the public art and pedestrian safety improvements. “Me being a Rondo kid, that means a lot to me,” one woman said of the art.

One man who walks Dale St. regularly said he appreciates improvements, saying he keeps his bag at hand to be able to throw it at errant vehicles.

Several questions were raised about hiring, especially the hiring of people of color and women. Ramsey County is starting a six-month workforce equity plan, which will be used in bridge project hiring, said John O’Phelan, county workforce specialist.

The county is working to get more people into building trades apprenticeship and training programs and will work with local agencies include Ujamaa Place and the YWCA to get people into the trade and hired, not just for the Dale St. Bridge, but for other future projects, O’Phelan said. A similar process was used during Green Line light rail work. Hiring goals will be announced this summer but should be around 30 percent for people of color and 20 percent for women.

Wind, solar changes eyed
A delayed update of wind turbine and solar garden regulations for St. Paul is en route to the St. Paul City Council for a public hearing at 5:30pm on Wed., Mar. 6. The council will be looking at one of the first major updates to the city’s renewable energy regulations in almost a decade.

The most recent studies began a few years ago and went through a Planning Commission review and approval process. But changes in city staff and other issues meant the proposed changes were set aside. A new city planner has been assigned to shepherd the project through.

The six pages of changes deal primarily with where devices can be located, heights of poles, and other technical details. The update was sought for several years, as more people considered renewable energy options for their homes and businesses.

St. Paul’s regulations have been criticized for being very dated. For example, the current rules don’t allow solar gardens or community solar installations.

The changes are meant to bring city regulations into compliance with updated technologies and with a sweeping package of solar energy laws passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013. The state laws govern community solar installations or “gardens.” These solar device arrays, with multiple subscribers, are connected to the power grid. Subscribers receive a credit on their electric bills for the power the panels produce. The 2013 change allows Xcel Energy to provide energy to clients from solar gardens. Xcel customers can purchase energy from the sustainable resources. None of those resources are in St. Paul—yet. The city last updated its solar regulations in 2011.

Wind energy devices sought since 2002 have operated under different regulations, typically under “determination of similar use” requests. That meant governing wind turbines in the same way cell phone towers are regulated. Not long after a wind turbine requested for Metropolitan State University was voted down by the City Council in 2012, the Planning Commission asked that technologies be studied, and new regulations written.

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