St. Paul residents who use skyways to get around in the wee hours will have to head down to the streets starting in mid-October.
The skyway system will shut down at midnight instead of 2 a.m. City Council members, prompted by concerns about public safety downtown, finalized a new set of skyway rules Wednesday that includes the reduced hours.
The earlier closure was an olive branch the council extended to building owners, who said providing security for their buildings and skyways until 2 a.m. has been expensive. Some building owners said they would like an even earlier closure, like 8 p.m. Meanwhile, disability rights advocates said skyway access is important and should remain open later.
At last week’s public hearing, nearly everyone who testified was against some aspect of the proposed changes — but for different reasons, Council President Russ Stark said.
“Sometimes everyone coming out a little bit unhappy means that you’ve found the right spot to land, in terms of a policy that is balancing the interests,” Stark said. “As things continue to evolve, we’ve got to keep looking at it and re-evaluating it over time.”
Council Member Dai Thao was the lone vote against the skyway code changes, which he said will disproportionately impact people with disabilities.
Under the new rules, building owners will have to step up their security procedures. They must provide video surveillance or have security personnel, and city staff will review video and security plans to make sure building owners comply with the rules.
Council Member Rebecca Noecker, who represents the area, encouraged downtown business owners to share security resources, which she said could save them money and result in a more coherent security system.
“The more they work together the more efficient, more effective and more cost-effective,” said Dan Niziolek, the city’s deputy director of the Department of Safety and Inspections. He said city staff will continue meeting with business owners to make sure they understand what they must do.
Noecker also asked city staff to help educate skyway users about the changes they will see. The city will post signs telling people what they cannot do in the skyways, such as lie on the floor, litter or play loud music.
They will also reach out to residents through the local district council, Niziolek said.