St. Paul creates a no-go zone around Xcel Center

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2008 - 12:44 PM

Motorists and bus riders accustomed to easy access to downtown St. Paul from the west will face detours next month under traffic-control measures being put into place for the Republican National Convention.

City officials revealed Monday the boundaries of the no-traffic zone, which is to be set up in the area surrounding Xcel Energy Center. Motorists traveling east on Interstate 94 into downtown will see access blocked to W. Kellogg Boulevard and W. 5th Street, requiring detours to the north and east.

Changes could be dramatic for Metro Transit riders traveling east into downtown on Smith Avenue and W. 7th Street -- some of whom board in Minneapolis -- because of a walling off of traffic at Chestnut Street just east of the Irvine Park neighborhood.

Joyce Kanevsky, a resident of Irvine Park Towers, said she has heard of likely bus restrictions for weeks. Yet even Monday, with release of details of the convention's no-traffic zone, Metro Transit had yet to spell out detour routes.

Said Kanevsky: "You can't even plan." Despite the inconveniences, "downtown will be open for business," said John Maczko, city engineer . He says traffic conditions downtown during the Sept. 1-4 event will be similar to "four days of State Fair-like traffic."

The area around Xcel Energy Center will be closed to vehicles and bicycles from the end of rush hour Friday, Aug. 29 to Saturday, Sept. 6.

Pedestrians can expect to move about the area freely, police spokesman Tom Walsh said, although credentials would be needed as they neared "the skin" of the building. Access to walking on W. 7th Street in front of the convention site also could be difficult, city officials said Monday evening during the first of two public meetings on the traffic-control plan.

A second public meeting is set for 8 to 9 a.m. Wednesday in St. Paul City Hall.

Bus plans expected next week

Julie Johanson, deputy chief operations manager for Metro Transit, said the agency plans to release the detour information on its website Monday.

Metro Transit plans to maintain regular service, she said, and will add extra buses to handle higher demand. A satellite bus-tracking system is being used, Johanson added, so that buses can be deployed to fill any service gaps.

Beginning Friday night, Maczko said, the city also plans to adjust signal patterns for its 126 downtown traffic lights to help smooth traffic flow.

As for the broader business community, Liz Bogut, spokeswoman for the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said chamber members weren't made aware of the final traffic-free boundaries until Monday afternoon. She said it was too early to say whether the members might have any concerns.

But at Monday night's public meeting, several downtown business owners wondered how deliveries will be made to their establishments.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-298-1545

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