By Anne Holzman
The city of Falcon Heights has begun planning street repairs and sidewalk installation on Garden Avenue for the summer of 2023.
The project area extends between Snelling and Hamline avenues, including the stretch in front of Falcon Heights Elementary School.
The City Council heard preliminary proposals for the project at its July 7 work session. Informational meetings will begin in August or September and stretch into 2022. A public hearing is likely to be scheduled in fall 2022.
Built in the 1950s and widened two decades later, Garden Avenue presents an unusual challenge for putting in sidewalks, City Administrator Sack Thongvanh told the Bugle. Many homes along the street have garages too close to the right-of-way to allow for a car to pull in, clear a sidewalk and park outside the garage, he said.
When the city last considered redesigning the street in 2015, there was no resolution between the property owners’ concerns and those of pedestrians, and construction was postponed.
Now, Thongvanh said the city can’t wait any longer.
“The road condition has gotten to the point where we have to do it,” Thongvanh said. He noted that Falcon Heights receives fuel tax shares from the state and must keep up major streets in order to qualify for those funds.
“We can’t delay the project any more because we will lose funding,” Thongvanh said. “We received $196,687 this year” in fuel tax funds.
That doesn’t mean sidewalks have to be installed. But since 2015, state rules concerning street widths have been relaxed, and sketches presented to the council on July 7 show narrower roadways that carve out space for sidewalks while leaving a car length available in a typical driveway.
Thongvanh said that although the presence of the elementary school is one important factor in considering putting down sidewalks, there are also other reasons to install them. He said other factors include the proposed reduction of the city’s speed limits on neighborhood streets and alignment with the city’s long-range, safe-streets goals.
Thongvanh said the proposed project costs would be partly covered by assessments to properties along Garden Avenue that would come after an assessment hearing. n
Anne Holzman is a Bugle freelance writer who covers Falcon Heights and Lauderdale government news.