Shuttles and transit will be critical to handle the increased traffic and parking needs that will come with the proposed Minnesota United FC soccer stadium and surrounding development in St. Paul’s Snelling-Midway neighborhood, a report released Monday found.
St. Paul is seeking community feedback on the analysis, which delved into environmental, traffic, parking and noise issues that would result from the redevelopment of a 34.4-acre site near Snelling Avenue and Interstate 94.
Researchers looked forward to 2035 — when developers expect the site to be fully built out — and found that bottlenecks would occur at intersections in the area and that it could take nearly two hours to clear traffic after an event. The report recommended reworking several roads by 2035 to keep traffic flowing.
The report will inform the site master plan, said Donna Drummond, St. Paul’s planning director. The city’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the master plan on Friday and the City Council will vote on the plan in August.
While development plans for the site are moving forward, the financial future of the approximately 20,000-seat, $150 million stadium was trapped in political limbo on Monday.
Gov. Mark Dayton did not sign the tax bill, which included a property tax break for the soccer stadium site that Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire has said is key to development.
As of Monday, the city and team officials were still planning for the stadium.
“We are continuing to march forward in the hopes that state leaders will reach an agreement. From a city planning perspective, it’s easier to move forward now than to wait and try to catch up,” said Tonya Tennessen, spokeswoman for Mayor Chris Coleman.
Minnesota United spokesman Eric Durkee said that the team was waiting to see what happens and that it had no official comment on what would occur if the property tax break for the site were not approved.
“As for the area-wide environmental review, it’s positive news for the area and the future development in the Midway neighborhoods. Additionally, the review helps confirm our assumptions about the viability of the stadium project moving forward,” Durkee said.
Tom Goldstein, a St. Paul resident who has repeatedly raised concerns about the stadium, said he is concerned that research on transportation around the site was not completed earlier. He said there is a “sense of foreboding” about future traffic and parking impacts.
“It’s very clear to me how this is happening that it’s not based on science or really good planning,” he said.
Eric Molho, who co-chaired a community advisory committee that weighed in on the Snelling-Midway redevelopment, said many members of that committee are disappointed with the timing of the report, which is being released after the group wrapped up its work. Nonetheless, he said, he is excited about the plan for the site and glad that residents are finally able to dig into the parking and transportation details that are “so important to the people who live nearby.”
People will have 30 days to provide feedback on the report, which is posted on the city’s website.
They can also attend an open house on Tuesday to learn more about the analysis.
While the report gives an overview of neighborhood impacts, it also states that more research is needed to develop mitigation plans for certain issues, such as parking. The analysis found that there would not be enough parking spaces within walking distance of the stadium to accommodate all of the people who want to drive to events.
“Unless carefully managed, this could result in significant traffic congestion, circulation trying to find a space, illegal parking and overall frustration,” the report states.
Relying on shuttles
There are already several places — such as the University of Minnesota, downtown St. Paul and the State Fairgrounds — where there is parking available and shuttles could relay people to the stadium, senior planner Josh Williams said.
The report is also conservative when it comes to estimating the number of private property owners in the area who would offer parking at their lots, said Jonathan Sage-Martinson, the city’s director of planning and economic development.
Sage-Martinson also noted that the soccer team plans to add park space in hopes that soccer fans will come to the area early and hang around after a game, instead of arriving and departing all at once. That would help reduce bottlenecks, he said.
Molho said he believes that relying on shuttles and transit is the right approach to increase vitality in the neighborhood, where there is already so much concrete and parking space.
“I think it will be difficult, particularly the first season, to educate people,” Molho said. “But I think long-term that is the right thing for the Midway.”