St. Paul knows its streets need fixing.
For years, city employees have been raising alarms about mounting repair needs costing millions of dollars. Now a newly released study of 20 cities' downtown streets — often some of the best maintained to accommodate heavy traffic in urban hubs — ranked St. Paul among the worst.
The report, produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Pittsburgh-based RoadBotics, used artificial intelligence technology to look for potholes, cracks and other signs of deterioration and rate about 75 miles of Twin Cities streets.
Philadelphia was deemed to have the best downtown streets, while Detroit and Phoenix tied for last among the cities studied.
Minneapolis fared middle of the road.
"Our funding is way behind our understanding of what's happening to our infrastructure," said Benjamin Schmidt, the CEO of RoadBotics, which helps governments collect and map data on road conditions to inform budget decisions.
RoadBotics collected its data using a smartphone attached to a car windshield in 2019, around the time when St. Paul Public Works staff warned that 90% of the city's residential streets would be in poor, serious or failed condition in 20 years unless maintenance funding doubled to about $50 million annually.
Not much has changed in the time since. During a presentation to the City Council in April, Public Works staff said more than half of St. Paul's streets won't be drivable within 30 years if funding stays constant.
Some council members have suggested using some of the city's $166 million American Rescue Plan aid to pay for sewer or broadband improvements that would require street repairs.
Mayor Melvin Carter is expected to announce proposed uses of the city's federal pandemic aid during his budget address later this month.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478