Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

New University Ave. parking seems to be sailing through

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin


If parking is added along University in several locations, who will park there? Could the parking be a draw to amenities such as Iris and Dickerman parks? Will businesses use it? Those are questions the St. Paul City Council must weigh as it considers reinstating evening and late-night parking along University Ave.

The plan will go to the council for a final public hearing and vote in late February or early March. The Planning Commission voted to approve Feb. 5. Its Transportation Committee unanimously recommended approval of the plan on Jan. 25.

A decision on restoring parking to parts of University will be voted on by the St. Paul City Council, which will hold a public hearing on the issue. A date hasn’t been announced. The changes also need approval from the Ramsey County Board, Hennepin County Board and Minneapolis City Council. The county boards must weigh in because University is classified as a county road.

When Green Line light rail was planned and built on University and Washington avenues, business owners were upset to find that much of the on-street parking would be lost to make way for light rail. The plan under consideration would bring back about 451 spots, in nine areas. Adding parking back in evening and late-night hours reduces University and Washington from four vehicular lanes to two.

Thus far the plan has drawn few public comments. The biggest debate was at Transportation Committee, with a 5-4 split on restoring parking between Prior Ave. and Aldine St. The committee rejected a Union Park District Council (UPDC) request that parking not be allowed there between 6pm and 2am.

Transportation Committee and UPDC Board Member Anne White said that businesses in the area between Aldine and Prior don’t want to see the street reduced to two lanes. “We just couldn’t see the point of bringing parking back,” White said. “The businesses don’t need or want it.” She also said that leaving four lanes of traffic in that area keeps open the option for a future bike lane on University.

Another concern White raised is that reducing University to two lanes could have the effect of pushing more traffic to other streets, including St. Anthony Ave Merriam Park residents have complained about increasing traffic volumes and vehicular speeds on that street.

But other committee members said they don’t want to see the parking proposal changed. Committee Member and Planning Commissioner Jun-Li Wang said pedestrians feel safer when there is a buffer of parked vehicles between them and moving vehicles. Wang, a Hamline-Midway resident, has been involved in planning efforts to improve Dickerman Park. The linear “park” extends from the northeast corner of University and Fairview avenues to Aldine.

“There are concerns about safety at Dickerman Park, and parking could serve as an additional buffer there,” Wang said. On-street parking could also be used by people wanting to visit Dickerman and Iris Park to the west.

Committee Member Jim Barton joined Wang and other committee members in urging that the addition of parking be considered as a test. “I’m not terribly convinced that it (adding parking) is going to work and that it is going to be actively used in some places,” Barton said. “I’d like to see this be considered an experiment and that it be evaluated at some point.”

John Maczko, city engineer for the St. Paul Department of Public Works, said that if there is a request to evaluate the parking, Public Works could do it. But he cautioned that there is no formal process in place to evaluate the added parking. “We’d pretty much take feedback from the community,” he said. City officials would also look at traffic data, including crash data.

The areas where on-street parking would be restored are scattered between Park St. and 23rd Ave. on University Ave. along the Green Line.

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