Lawmakers included $5 million in their bonding bill to demolish the deteriorating RiverCentre parking ramp, but St. Paul leaders say they can't move forward until they receive the $58 million they had sought to replace it.
"It really feels like a blown opportunity," St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said in an interview Monday. "Our ramp is really a symbol of infrastructure assets all over the state that are in disrepair, that are near the end of their structural life that require investment, but we wasted the opportunity to invest in, despite the fact that we have the resources to do it."
Carter ordered the closure of RiverCentre ramp last week after a chunk of concrete fell on a parked car. Since then, the city has been trying to find alternative parking solutions for the ramp's 600 monthly parkers.
By Wednesday, the city is expected to incur about $100,000 in expenses related to the closure of the ramp, Carter said. A week later, that's expected to go up to $250,000.
Engineers are working at a "feverish pace to assess every square foot of every level and to bring us some recommendations on what it's going to take to stabilize that ramp," he said.
"My goal is to get it at least partially reopened as soon as possible so that we can continue to support all of the important commerce and cultural activities that that ramp supports," Carter said.
Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet signed the bonding bill. Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said St. Paul will eventually demolish the ramp but not until it gets enough funding to rebuild it.
"It is a big disappointment that tearing it down now and waiting for [funding] is not a very satisfactory solution," he said. "The sooner we can get the rest of the money committed, the better off we'll be."
Closing the parking ramp for so long will create "horrific traffic jams and parking hustles," he said, especially when there are concerts and high school graduation ceremonies.
"This is really a regional or statewide asset," Marty said. "The city is trying very hard to make sure they can address the safety concern to keep it open as much as they can."
The city estimates it will cost $117.9 million to build a new 2,200-stall ramp, or nearly $54,000 per parking space.