Como Ave. Bike Options Attract Plenty of Attention
Wednesday, January 23, 2019 12:35 AM

Dan Edgerton, of Zan Associates, explains aspects of the Como Ave. planning to community members.

An off-street trail on the north side of Como Ave. is the common link among options the city in examining to extend the Grand Round between Hamline and Raymond Aves.

More than 125 people dropped in to the Como Park Streetcar Station Jan. 15 to get the facts about the bicycle and pedestrian trail the city plans to build in 2020 and 2021. Visitors learned that Saint Paul and Ramsey County are not looking at eliminating all Como Ave on-street parking. That the project would not shut down Como Lake Drive between Victoria and Lexington. That the project is designed to save as many boulevard trees as possible, not cut them down.

Rumor vs. reality
The project extends west from Hamline Ave. to the Raymond/Cleveland Ave. intersection. Of the seven design options under consideration, only one proposal would take away any parking – and that proposal would eliminate parking on only one side of Como, and only between Hamline and Snelling.

The proposals break the 1.6-mile trail into three sections: Hamline to Snelling; Snelling to the University of Minnesota Transitway; and the Transitway to Raymond/Cleveland. The segments between Hamline and Snelling, and west of the Transitway, now are similar: They have sidewalks on both sides of the street, parking on both sides of the street, painted bike lanes on both sides of the street, and two lanes of vehicle traffic.

The middle stretch – along the State Fairgrounds – has a sidewalk on the south side of Como but only on part of the north side, has four lanes of traffic most of the way, and has restricted parking on both sides. Only a short segment has official bike lanes painted on the street. The city has details, maps, and its parking study posted on the project’s web page.

Options differ in each segment
In the drafts of the Grand Round proposals, what the three segments share in common is an off-street trail on the north side of Como. Separating the trail from the street is intended to make cycling easier and safer for less-experienced riders. Where the trail crosses residential streets, crosswalks likely will be raised to increase visibility for cyclists and awareness for drivers. In general terms, the trail would resemble the off-street trail along Wheelock Parkway east of Como Lake. Depending on the options chosen, the Como Ave. trail also could include in-street bike lanes for the entire 1.6-mile stretch; that would reduce conflicts for commuters and faster riders. Beyond that, details differ for each of the three stretches.

  • Between the Transitway and Raymond/Cleveland. The project essentially proposes replacing the existing sidewalk north of Como – along the university’s St. Paul campus – with a 12-foot-wide, two-way, multi-use, off-street trail. This would not change the street, bike lanes, or parking. (The street now is 50 feet wide; the public right-of-way is 85 feet wide.)
  • Between the Transitway and Snelling. The project would create a two-way, off-street trail on the north side of Como – along the entire length of the Fairgrounds. One option would make no changes to the street; a second option would narrow the street to 48 feet wide to allow more “elbow room” between the trail and vehicle traffic; and a third option would narrow the street to 48 feet and build both a bike trail and sidewalk on the north side of Como. (The street now varies from 50 to 58 feet wide; the entire right-of-way is 85 feet wide.)
  • Also under consideration in this stretch is a “4-3 conversion” of the street. The conversion would reconfigure Como from two lanes of traffic in each direction to one lane of traffic in each direction; a center turn lane; and painted, in-street bike lanes in each direction.
  • Between Snelling and Hamline. The project proposes an off-street bike trail on the north side of Como, separated from the street by normal curbing. Reconstruction essentially would reallocate space within the public right-of-way. It would narrow the street to between 38 feet or 42 feet wide (depending on the option) by widening the north-side boulevard. Extending the boulevard into what is now the north side parking lane would make it possible to save the vast majority of boulevard  trees. One option to make that happen would remove parking on one side of the street, but keep the on-street bike lanes. A second option would remove the on-street bike lanes, but keep parking on both sides of the street. (The street now varies from 51 to 63 feet wide; the right-of-way is 100 feet wide.) This second option essentially would shift the parking lane south, eliminate both in-street bike lanes, and shift the vehicle lanes south. The south side parking lane and boulevard essentially would remain the same.

Project manager Reuben Collins told District 10's Land Use Committee on Feb. 12 that engineers will continue to refine details, then hold another open house this spring. Design work will continue the rest of 2019. Because Como Ave. is a county road west of Hamline, Ramsey County ultimately makes the final decisions, he said.

Construction is supposed to take place in 2020 and 2021, though a schedule of which segments get built when may not be known for a year. Most of the project is being paid for with federal money, which means property owners are unlikely to see any additional assessments, Collins said -- unless the project adds new lighting.

Originally published Jan. 17, 2019; most recently updated on Feb. 22.

(C) 2019 Como Community Council.

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Community members examine options for different segments of the proposed Como Ave. Trail

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