Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Study underway on how to minimize traffic hassles from stadium

Posted on 11 December 2017 by Calvin

Getting to and from the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium, and minimizing impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods, is the focus of an upcoming gameday transportation management plan.

City officials will sign a contract this month with SRF Consulting for the initial phase of transportation planning. But members of the St. Paul Planning Commission Transportation Committee have questions about how everything will function.

Committee members asked for updates as the plan is developed. The group will eventually weigh in on the plan, as will Union Park District Council and Hamline Midway Coalition.

The stadium is under construction in the block bounded by Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues. It is to open in early 2019. Last month the St. Paul City Council approved more than $4 million to cover projects including extending the street grid into the site and for the transportation plan itself.

“We’ll be looking at game day transportation and seeing how it can work,” said Senior City Planner Josh Williams. While the stadium will have a few hundred on-site parking lot spaces initially, the long-term plan is for those areas to be redeveloped with new buildings. Parking ramps would be built as new redevelopment occurred.

“The challenge we have is not to have a ton of traffic going through Snelling and University,” said Williams. That could be tricky with a many as 20,00 soccer fans arriving on game days.

SRF and city officials will be developing a game day operations manual, said Williams. The upcoming study was called for in a 2016 alternative urban areawide review (AUAR). A stakeholders’ group with representatives from Minnesota United, the city, Ramsey County, Metropolitan Council/Metro Transit, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), area businesses, institutions and community groups will form. The goal is to have the study done by year’s end.

Stakeholders, city staff, and consultants will continue to meet regularly after that to see how the plan is working, and what changes are needed. As the Midway Center block is redeveloped, gameday transportation will continue to change.

City officials contend that there is ample parking in the Midway area to accommodate soccer fans who drive to games, including nearby ramps and lots as well as shuttles from destinations like the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. They also expect many fans to ride the bus or trains.

But in response to the AUAR last year Metropolitan Council, which operates Metro Transit, and MnDOT asked whether city officials and consultants are being realistic about potential transit use and street and highway capacity on game days. Concerns were raised about street and highway capacity, as well as transit system capacity, on game days. Those questions will be explored over the next several months.

Last year city officials responded that they made conservative assumptions, given the lack of off-street parking on and near the site, and indicated they believe traffic, transit use, and parking can be “effectively managed.”

The consultants will weigh in on issues including pedestrian staging areas for transit, park and ride, shuttle users, and off-site parking users. They will gather two days’ worth of pedestrian video data at Snelling and Spruce Tree Drive to quantify the number of users of the A-Line BRT utilize the Snelling and Spruce Tree traffic signal to cross Snelling to access businesses or the Green Line light rail stations. They’ll also look at other factors including accident data, potential traffic pattern changes, and turning movements at intersections., Part of the focus will be on a plan to relocate the Snelling-Spruce Tree signal to a new Snelling-Shields intersection.

Commissioners had many questions that will be addressed in the studies and stadium planning, including how street crossings and drop-off points will function.

Planning Commissioner Taqee Khaled raised concerns about pedestrian safety along University. “From my home three blocks away, I hear crashes on a regular basis,” he said.

Williams said signal times would be considered. One issue being scrutinized is that on game days, people will be crossing University and Snelling in large groups and how that will be handled.

Commissioners also asked who pays for traffic control on game days. Williams said he assumes that is Minnesota FC’s responsibility. But in the Twin Cities there are different models. The City of St. Paul pays for traffic control near CHS Field in Lowertown. The Minnesota Wild hockey team pays on game nights at Xcel Energy Center.

Spillover parking on neighborhood streets was also flagged as a concern. “Parking is a question a lot of people bring up,” said Williams. “Obviously we can’t control what people do, but we’d like to discourage people from parking in the neighborhoods. To the extent it does become a problem we can look at residential permit parking.”

One idea is to have game tickets indicate where parking is available, said Williams. Parking by the stadium is intended to be an interim use. “No one believes that parking is the highest and best use of the property near the stadium,” Williams said.

But while the Snelling/Midway Master Plan calls for a mix of development to fill the Midway Center bloc, Williams also said, “A master plan is a plan. It’s not a guarantee that development will happen.”

But whatever is built will need the street network that is planned.

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