After about 975 parking spaces were removed from University Avenue to accommodate the Green Line light rail — sparking outrage among some local business owners — St. Paul may add half of the eliminated spots back.
Planning Commission members approved a plan Friday to keep the current two lanes of traffic in each direction open during busy daytime hours, then turn one of the lanes on each side into parking from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. in certain areas.
Officials estimate it will cost $79,375 to add the 451 planned parking spots — if the City Council and the Ramsey County Board sign off on the plan.
The idea elicited mixed reviews from restaurant owners who would get on-street parking in front of their businesses. Some worried about increased congestion, while others said additional parking could help draw in customers.
“Right now we don’t have enough parking space,” said Mai Nguyen, owner of Mai Village near the intersection of Western and University avenues. She is optimistic about the change and said, at least where her restaurant is located, reducing a lane after 6 p.m. would not cause traffic problems.
Discussions about on-street parking began after the Green Line opened in 2014, city engineer John Maczko said.
Officials surveyed residents and businesses shortly after the line started operating. They found about 70 percent of respondents wanted two travel lanes for cars on the street and limited on-street parking. The city also commissioned a traffic study along the road and had committees look into parking options.
The proposed change they arrived at would add on-street parking along four stretches of University Avenue: from Washington Avenue to Hampden Street; Prior Avenue to Aldine Street; Syndicate Street to Grotto Street; and Mackubin Street to Rice Street.
If the parking is not working, the city can change it again, Planning Commissioner William Lindeke said.
“It’s good to try something and know that we’re not pouring cement,” Commissioner Wendy Underwood said. “At the end of the day, they’re going to see how well it works and go back and make adjustments.”
The resolution the commission approved says staff should monitor parking spot use and public feedback for the section between Prior Avenue and Aldine Street and report back in a year.
The planned Minnesota United soccer stadium could also affect the proposal, Commissioner Christopher Ochs said, noting that once the stadium opens, “additional lane closures for parking at 6 p.m. may be problematic.”