The contentious plan to add bicycle lanes along Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul overcame its final hurdle Tuesday.

The Ramsey County Board voted to approve the lanes between Highland Parkway and St. Anthony Avenue. Lane striping and the addition of two half-block parking areas along the street are expected to be completed by fall, county and city staff said.

"It will create a critical north-south connection for bicyclists," County Commissioner Toni Carter said. "The proposal before us moves us in the right direction to ensure that Cleveland can be safe for travel by all users."

The board, however, voted against the city's recommendation to reduce the speed along the county road from 30 to 25 miles per hour. Commissioners decided instead to take a broader look at road safety and they plan to ask municipalities across Ramsey County to join the effort.

"We've all had it in our districts where someone wanted a speed limit lowered," Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said. But if they approved all the community requests for stop signs or lower speed limits it would create a "mish mash" of rules that do not necessarily make people safer, she said.

Consistency is key to a safe road system, county Public Works Director Jim Tolaas said. The speed for Cleveland Avenue has been set according to Minnesota Department of Transportation standards. "If you're going to deviate from that it should be based on technical work," he said.

The County Board initially discussed the Cleveland Avenue project last June, but after an unusual amount of public interest, the city and county held off on a decision and sought community input. St. Paul created a working group that studied the situation and recommended adding the lanes in an 8-4 vote.

The speed limit reduction was one of the working group's recommendations, St. Paul Council President Russ Stark said. The City Council approved the lanes and the lower speed limit.

"Motorists going slower is safer for everyone," Stark said, but added that he understands the county's concern and said it is important to address the issue systematically.

Parking debate

The Cleveland Avenue bicycle lanes, which will run past the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University, are a piece of the St. Paul Bicycle Plan that the city is building out.

Many residents and cyclists rallied in support of the Cleveland Avenue lanes, which they said will improve safety. Other residents and business owners fought the city's plan to remove on-street parking along sections of the road to make way for the lanes.

St. Paul will build two half-block parking areas to replace the lost spots.

But Lynn Meyer, who owns Rising Sun Martial Arts Supply along the street, said the parking areas are too far away from some businesses to help. She said she was holding out hope that the County Board would deny the plan.

"There goes my last hope … It's a reality and I don't know what we'll do," Meyer said. "I'm hoping we'll find some way to weather it. But taking our best parking is really going to harm the businesses in the area."

The project is expected to cost $266,500, according to city estimates. St. Paul will pay for the parking mitigation and part of the road striping, St. Paul Transportation Planner Luke Hanson said. The county will add some bike lane stripes as part of a resurfacing project on a portion of Cleveland Avenue, Tolaas said.

The city plans to extend the lanes farther north to University Avenue, but has not set a timeline for that addition, Hanson said.

Jessie Van Berkel • 612-673-4649