A group of residents in St. Paul’s North End wants to make a handful of Ramsey County-owned streets safer to walk, after two people were struck by cars and killed on Larpenteur Avenue early this month.
The problem is that many of the neighborhood’s busiest roads — Larpenteur, along with Rice and Dale streets — are traffic thoroughfares that nearby residents must cross to get to apartments, homes and bus stops, said Kerry Antrim, executive director of the North End Neighborhood Organization.
“There’s this disconnect between the way they were designed to get traffic through as expediently as possible with the fact that they are neighborhood streets with a lot of apartments and people trying to cross them,” Antrim said.
The North End Neighborhood Organization was set to host a community meeting about traffic on Larpenteur this week, but it was postponed because of the subfreezing temperatures. The meeting will be rescheduled in the next week or two, Antrim said.
The Larpenteur Avenue and Rice Street intersection serves as the boundary for St. Paul, Roseville and Maplewood. The two roads are county-owned, resulting in a mesh of four different authorities trying to catch up with the needs of a changing population.
“The North End isn’t alone in taking a look at how these streets that were designed decades ago are working for us now,” Antrim said. “But we know that a third of our population here is 17 or under, and we have the highest refugee and immigrant population in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and just less people drive cars here than in other places. So we have to start looking at how to accommodate more pedestrian activity.”
Robert Blake Buxton, 47, and Meridith Aikens, 45, both of Roseville, were making their way across Larpenteur Avenue during rush hour on Jan. 3, near Woodbridge Court just west of Rice Street, when they were struck by traffic.
The driver of the pickup truck that first struck the two stopped and cooperated with police, but a second vehicle also hit Aikens in the westbound lanes and fled the scene, police said. The driver of that vehicle, a 61-year-old man from Roseville, was arrested two days later.
Ramsey County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo, who was sworn in at the start of the year, promised during her campaign to work to slow traffic in the North End. As an option for Dale Street she pointed to the county’s yearlong experiment to remove a lane of traffic on Maryland Avenue, which reduced enough injury-causing crashes that the county made the lane change permanent last spring.
The fatalities on Larpenteur show there is a pressing need to make changes, MatasCastillo said.
“It’s definitely time for some traffic calming measures, even it’s something as simple as adding more crosswalks, anything to slow the speeds down a bit,” she said.