MnDOT has developed a preliminary design for improving comfort and mobility for all users on Snelling Avenue from Hewitt Avenue to Midway Parkway in St. Paul. This corridor has distinct challenges that directly influenced, and sometimes limited, the preliminary design process. The project team remains interested in working with the community to prioritize improvements and to identify project funding.
The Greater St. Paul area has made a lot of progress in providing more options for people to get around by foot and bicycle. However, Snelling Avenue currently isn’t pedestrian and bicyclist friendly. This matters because it is a critical regional north-south connection. There are no other crossings over the railroad tracks for one mile in each direction.
The project team is recommending investments that would change the way pedestrians and bicyclists interact with vehicle traffic. The proposed design features dedicated, high quality facilities throughout the corridor: widened sidewalks and one-way, 7-foot bikeways with six-foot raised buffers between bicycles and vehicles. This design would help users safely and conveniently reach their destination without competing for space with faster or slower traffic, and increase the likelihood that the facilities would be used. One-way bikeways help make routes more predictable. Bicyclists would be either on-street or off-street, depending on where they are riding within the corridor. At times, pedestrians and bicyclists would have a shared-use trail, but much of the corridor will feature dedicated facilities, which is more comfortable for current and potential users.
There are real safety concerns for bicyclists and pedestrians attempting to share Snelling Avenue with vehicle and large truck traffic. More than 42,000 vehicles use this corridor every day.
Corridor improvements will be designed for 40 mph traffic movement. Intentional design details will create a more street-like feel so drivers are more likely to slow down. This includes narrower travel lanes and replacing the barrier wall in the middle of the road with a raised median.
Pedestrians and bicyclists would have widened sidewalks, one-way, 7-foot bikeways, and dedicated spaces separate from vehicles along Snelling Avenue at Como Avenue. The addition of these high-quality facilities would improve transit access and connections for current and potential users.
The bikeway and sidewalk would go behind the Metro Transit stop at Como Avenue to avoid potential conflicts and congestion in front of the stop. Green space/plantings would provide additional organization to the transit area by setting apart the walking, bicycling, and transit boarding areas.
The intersection of Snelling Avenue at Energy Park Drive would include high visibility bikeway and pedestrian crosswalks, an elevated bikeway and sidewalks adjacent to the intersections, bikeway and pedestrian refuge areas within the intersection, and a traffic signal that includes crossing warnings and prompts for bicycles. The protected sidewalks and two-way bikeway would extend onto the Snelling Avenue Bridge, providing increased connectivity and comfort for all users.
There are 10 bridges along Snelling Avenue from Hewitt Avenue to Midway Parkway. The existing bridges have no buffers between vehicles and non-motorized users. Pedestrians and bicyclists are forced to share a narrow sidewalk immediately next to traffic that is picking up speed in the existing merge lane. In the proposed design, vehicles coming on and off Energy Park Drive would meet the new traffic signal, eliminating blind spots and safely cycling all users through this intersection.
Walkers and bicyclists would approach the intersection via dedicated, high quality facilities, which would be separated from vehicle traffic by a raised median. The raised median would add minimal weight to the bridges. The proposed design decreases the likelihood of a full reconstruction of the bridges and accommodates all types of travel. This is a major cost savings because most of these bridges have 15-20 years of life left before needing to be replaced. Energy Park Drive transit stop improvements would tie into the overall design.
The intersection of Snelling Avenue at Pierce Butler Route would include a high visibility bikeway and pedestrian crosswalks, elevated bikeway and sidewalks adjacent to the intersections, bikeway and pedestrian refuge areas within the intersection, and a traffic signal that includes crossing warnings and prompts for bicycles. All of these upgrades increase the comfort and visibility of all users.
A redesigned intersection with a traffic signal at Pierce Butler Route would create better visibility and crossing options for pedestrians and bicyclists. Vehicles coming on and off Pierce Butler would meet the signal, eliminating blind spots and safely cycling all users through this intersection. Pedestrians and bicyclists would approach the intersection via their own facilities, which would be separated from vehicles by a raised median.
The recommended changes at Pierce Butler Route would be balanced with drivers’ needs, including designing the intersection to accommodate the turning radius of large trucks. The merge lanes on and off Snelling Avenue would be converted into high quality walking and bicycling facilities. This would eliminate the merging conflicts that drivers experience today. This design eliminates the need to rebuild the roads and bridges — a major cost savings to the overall project budget.
A travel time and speed study shows minimal impacts to drive time by adding signals, even during peak hours and under congested conditions. Signals at Pierce Butler Route and Energy Park Drive would add 30 seconds to a commute from Hewitt Avenue to Midway Parkway. Two travel lanes at the top of the Pierce Butler Route off-ramp would also help traffic move onto Snelling Avenue.
Pedestrians and bicyclists would have widened sidewalks, one-way, 7-foot bikeways, and dedicated spaces separate from vehicles along Snelling Avenue at Hewitt Avenue.
Currently, the intersection of Snelling Avenue at Hewitt Avenue accommodates a lot of pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle traffic from residents, businesses, and an active student population. People who live, work, and study in this area may be more likely to take fewer trips by vehicle and more trips by foot or bicycle if comfortable and accessible bikeways and improved sidewalks were available.
The bikeway on the west side of Snelling Avenue would be an on-street, 7-foot wide facility with a striped buffer between bicycles and vehicles. The bikeway on the east side of Snelling Avenue would be part of an off-street facility and transition onto an 8-foot, on-street bikeway with a 3-foot buffer.