With planning in the final stages, city officials are eyeing the end of June or early July for construction to begin. Barring any major setbacks, the project should conclude by mid-November, according to Barbara Mundahl, project engineer with the St. Paul Department of Public Works.
Carrying a $2.1 million price tag, funding for the project is being split between federal transportation funding ($1.075 million), capital improvement bonds ($225,000) and Municipal State Aid ($647,000). Area residents and property owners will also pick up $153,000 in assessments for the project.
Initiated by District 12 residents and officials, planning for the project began in 2004 with the central aim of calming traffic along the corridor.
Raymond Avenue was constructed in 1923 and is the only north-to-south route in the neighborhood. Because Highway 280 and Snelling Avenue are the only north-to-south alternatives in the area, the residential street is a popular route for cars, buses, trucks, pedestrians and bicyclists.
“There are definitely large safety issues,” said District 12 community organizer Lauren Fulner-Erickson. “Cars hit stuff around there all the time because of the geometry of the road and the speed that people go. In [a driver’s] mind, it’s a thoroughfare.”
Aiming to make the street friendlier to nonmotorized vehicle users, the project will narrow parts of Raymond, add bump-outs to shorten pedestrian crossings, add several new pedestrian crossings and medians, and realign intersections at Bayless Place and Long and Ellis avenues.
The section between University and Charles avenues will be the least intensive. That section was reconstructed in the 1994 and the infrastructure is still in relatively good shape. The project will mainly involve the removal and replacement of the street’s original asphalt.
Some repairs to curbs and sidewalks will also take place, but property owners along this segment will not be assessed, according to the city’s Summary of Engineer Recommendations.
Bump-outs will be added to all four corners of the intersection at Territorial Road and Raymond to aid pedestrian crossing.
To minimize the impact on businesses, planners are hoping to restrict major road closings for the two parts of the project to two separate weekends.
From Territorial Road to Hampden Avenue, the project will be considerably more intensive. Without a full reconstruct during its 90-year lifespan, this section will receive some major sewer work.
Additionally, the intersection at Bayless will be realigned to “T” into Raymond. Access to Raymond will be eliminated from Bradford, but Bradford will realign to Ellis Avenue, which will also “T” with Raymond. Currently, both streets come together to intersect Raymond, creating a large pedestrian crossing. The intersection at Long and Raymond will also be narrowed.
Two rain gardens will be installed at the Ellis and Bayless intersections, and property owners can also elect to have a rain garden installed on their part of the boulevard at no cost.
Three medians will be added along Raymond from Long to Hampden, and the island at Hampden and Raymond will be enlarged and landscaped to make it easier for pedestrians to cross to Hampden Park. That intersection will remain open during the length of the project.
Bike lanes will be added to the section of Raymond between Ellis and Long, which is the only section of the street that does not currently have bike lanes.
New sidewalks and lantern-style streetlights will also be added from Territorial to Hampden.
One of the more contentious aspects of the project is the loss of parking that will result between University and Hampden avenues.
Currently, there are nearly 112 parking spaces on that section of Raymond, with 68 of those falling between Ellis and Hampden. About 44 of those 68 will be eliminated. Parking will be banned on the west side of the street, six spaces will be eliminated south of Ellis, and one space will be lost south of Territorial.
The loss of parking is a serious concern for businesses and property owners in the area, Fulner-Erickson said, but she emphasized that the lines of communication are still open to help find public parking solutions.
“We recognize parking is an issue and it is a difficult thing to solve, but it definitely needs cooperation,” Fulner-Erickson said.
Business owners are also concerned about the timing of the project. Many are still reeling from the loss of business due to the light-rail construction and fear this project will lead to a further drop and added expenses at a time when they can least afford it.
“We are concerned about having a possible drop in sales,” said Kari Neathery, general manager of the Hampden Park Co-op, located at the corner of Raymond and Hampden avenues. “We know people are going to have to work a little bit harder to get here, but we want to make sure they’re aware [we will be open] and that they come and shop as they did before.”
Phases 2 and 3 of the project are still in the planning process and are initially slated for 2015 and 2016. District 12’s Transportation Committee hopes to move those dates up, however, to allow for more contiguous construction, Fulner-Erickson said.
Phase 2 will focus on the section of Raymond between Hampden and Energy Park Drive, while Phase 3 will address Energy Park to Como Avenue.
Plans for an expansion and development of Hampden Park are also in the works. Planners are hoping to coordinate this project with at least one of the phases of the Raymond Avenue project.
Kyle Mianulli is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.