Aging roads, safety issues spur Southview Blvd. revamp

Steve Mclaughlin pushed a stroller along Southview Boulevard in South St. Paul recently, veering around popped-up tree grates and the asphalt patches pockmarking the concrete to complete his task for the afternoon: ordering an ice cream birthday cake for his son, Aengus, who turned 1 that day.

“It gets pretty bumpy,” Mclaughlin said. “It’s just the obstacles by the trees ... the roots are pushing through the sidewalk.”

Mclaughlin added he would worry more about the elderly folks who have to navigate the various “tripping hazards” along the corridor to get to the coffee shop or senior center.

Difficult to navigate, especially for the elderly or those who use conveyances or wheelchairs, the aged sidewalks were one of the driving forces behind a focus to freshen up the busy road lined with businesses to make the corridor safer for all users — pedestrians, bikers and motorists. The city and Dakota County are in the early planning stage for the project to reconstruct the roadway set in one of the most intensely urbanized areas in the county. 

Why redevelop Southview

Southview Boulevard hasn’t had significant maintenance since it was built in the late 1980s, apart from a mill and overlay a decade or so ago, maintenance intended to extend the life of the road about 15 years. But the street is extensively patched, and many of the sidewalks don’t meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Dakota County senior project manager Chris Hartzell.

“We know there’s some issues in terms of pedestrian access,” he said. “There are issues with some traffic in the corridor. (Historically), but not recently, there’s been some recognized issues with crashes at some of the intersections.”

The project includes Southview between 20th Avenue and Third Avenue, and Third Avenue between Southview Boulevard and Marie Avenue.

The city is also looking to revitalize the look of the corridor with the projected $4 million project, 45 percent of which will be funded by the city. The county will fund the remaining 55 percent, while focusing on priorities addressed in the Dakota County 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

“The county’s primarily interested in maintaining the road and providing safe travel ... for all users: bicyclists, and pedestrian and car traffic,” Hartzell said.

Importance of the corridor

The project will be the first step in addressing the vision identified in the Southview Hill Plan, which addresses needs and wants for the area.

The state of the sidewalks were a safety concern, but also a factor in the success of the city’s main business center.

“It’s the businesses that we’re trying to make and keep succesful on Southview Boulevard,” city engineer John Sachi said. “The planning study clearly said you have to make this a pedestrian-friendly environment to make it successful.”

And although the city and county have identified some priorities in planning documents, such as updating the streetlights and smoothing out the paths for pedestrians, additional public input is being sought to help the two entities determine what the project should include.

“That’s what we’re looking for: The people that are affected by and use it every day, what do they see as their biggest issues that need to be addressed or what isn’t an issue that we think is?” Sachi said. “We’re trying to just get people engaged and informed.”

What’s next

Preliminary design will be conducted through February 2015, as the city and county determine the details of what will be built, such as the width of the road, sidewalks and parking. The final design will be addressed in 2015-2016 with construction in 2016 or 2017.

There will be many opportunities for community members to offer input through open houses, meetings with individual property owners and advisory committees for business owners and citizens. For more information on upcoming public meetings, project updates and how to get involved with various committees, visit www.southviewblvd.com.

“Our philosophy is to really try to understand the public’s need and meld that with what we understand with traffic safety and operations,” Hartzell  said. “The big thing is that people in the corridor are going to have plenty of time to comment ... and help figure out where this project needs to go.”

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.


Get informed

Learn more and sign up for the project mailing list at www.southviewblvd.com..

For more information, contact South St. Paul city engineer John Sachi at 651-554-3210 or jsachi@sspmn.org or Dakota County senior project manager Chris Hartzell at 952-891-7106 or chris.hartzell@co.mn.us.

 

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