This spring, the Ramsey County Public Works Department changed the striping on a busy segment of Maryland Avenue in St. Paul, converting the four-lane road with two traffic lanes in each direction to a three-lane road featuring one travel lane in each direction with a center left-turn lane.
It was a test to see how the new configuration put into place between Payne Avenue and Johnson Parkway would affect traffic flow — both speed and volume — along with bus delays and pedestrian safety. The segment sees between 15,700 vehicles on the east end to 18,300 vehicles on the west end each day.
Of course, those who live in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood or drive through it were asked for their opinions, and they’ve had a lot to say. More than 1,700 people shared their two cents through survey responses, e-mails and comments collected at community events that featured a Popsicle truck.
“It was a phenomenal response on such a small project,” said county spokeswoman Deborah Carter McCoy. “We don’t get this level of participation on larger projects.”
Now the question is: What happens to all that input?
The experts will take it into consideration as they try to get a feel for whether drivers and residents are in favor of the current configuration, said project manager Erin Laberee.
Missing from all that feedback was input from business owners. So this week the county sent letters to commercial property owners along Maryland and to some on Payne Avenue and Arcade Street, thoroughfares that cross Maryland, asking them to weigh in. Laberee said she wants to make sure their opinions are heard before a decision is made.
There had been talk about extending the test area from Payne over to Edgerton Street, but that plan has been scrapped, Laberee said. This week, however, the county will reconfigure the interchange at Arcade Street to relieve congestion. Westbound Maryland will be widened to two through lanes and the center turn lane eliminated. Once across Arcade, however, Maryland would taper back down to one through lane. “We’ve been getting westbound backups, so this is a test to see if that relieves the backups,” she said.
In May 2016, Erin Durham had just dropped off her children at a bus stop and was waved into the crosswalk at Maryland Avenue and Greenbrier Street by a motorist who had stopped in the lane nearest her. A second motorist continued driving, however, and struck and killed Durham when she stepped into the second lane.
That is what brought about testing the three-lane configuration. This is also why pedestrian medians were added at Greenbrier and Duluth streets, and left turns from Maryland to Greenbrier and Duluth streets were eliminated, Laberee said.
Laberee said there will be two community meetings this fall before the road is repaved and a permanent lane configuration is put in place.
Also in the area
Construction begins Monday at E. 7th Street and Payne Avenue. Look for traffic delays and reduced parking during the project designed to improve sight lines and pedestrian safety. East 7th Street will have one lane open each way during construction. Payne north of 7th will remain open at the outset but will see a six-week closure this fall.
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