Tuesday, September 30, 2014
What Can the Jordan Neighborhood Get From 26th Avenue Upgrades?
The contents of this post are not the position of the Jordan Area Community Council, and are my personal musing on the topic.
We are nearing the end of the beginning for the 26th Avenue Greenway/Bikeway. As plans will soon be finalized, neighborhoods and interest groups are making their final pushes for amenities or tweaks to the project that benefit their goals. Overall, this lobbying has produced good results The "opportunity points" at the river, Farview Park, Nellie Stone Johnson School, and Theo Wirth Parkway are all great additions to the corridor. And yet they all fall outside the boundaries of my neighborhood.
So I'm going to be unabashedly selfish here. If the bikeway is getting potential improvements over the previous plan, is there a way for the Jordan neighborhood to benefit from that? (Aside from the indirect benefit of having a better bike corridor overall, that is.)
...Yes and no.
First off, 26th Avenue North in Jordan is entirely a residential sector. There's no businesses (unless you count the shack Steve Meldahl uses as his slumlord headquarters), there are no parks, or schools. It's all houses, apartments, and vacant lots. There isn't a large assembly of contiguous vacant land to use as an expansion of a bike path. And there is neither the money nor the communal nor political will to acquire properties for demolition (or partial taking of lots) to expand the bikeway.
So it seems there isn't an easy, direct request that folks in Jordan can make. There is, however, an improvment or two that we could ask for in conjunction with this project, and those lie along the 25th and 27th Avenues.
Twenty-Fifth Avenue North is, quite simply, a hodgepodge of conflicting one-way segments. If St. Paul was designed, as our former governor once said, by drunken Irishmen, then 25th Avenue was put together by Scandinavians at their passive-aggressive worst while on a bad acid trip. None of it makes any sense unless viewed through the lens of someone trying to keep people out of the neighborhood while not wanting to seem like they're keeping people out of the neighborhood, oh and they may have been hallucinating.
There is a block of one-way eastbound traffic, followed by a block of one-way westbound, followed by a block (or two, depending on how you count it; no, really) of two-way traffic, followed by several blocks of a one-way westbound street, which intersects at Penn Avenue with another one-way westbound street.
I can tell you right now that if 26th Avenue is closed to construction for an extended period of time, people will begin to use 25th as their substitute for getting in and out of Jordan. It won't matter what the signs say, that street will function as a two-way street for much of its length. If the MPD wants to give me and other drivers a bunch of tickets, they could just park someone at 25th and James all day long.
The problem is that when there inevitably won't be police presence, there will be some idiot driver who is actually following the posted rules of 25th Avenue North, Lord only knows why, and he or she will wind up in an accident with the common-sense motorist who was just driving along the way people should. In all seriousness though, forcing motorists off of 26th during construction will make 25th Avenue significantly less safe if the route isn't changed to a consistent one- or two-way street.
And it better be a two-way street, even if parking has to be limited, because the other need we have in Jordan is going to cost a lot more money to fix. And that's traffic diverters.
Traffic diverters are barriers that force vehicles to turn either right or left instead of passing directly through an intersection. Jordan has such barriers at 27th and Irving, 29th and James, and 30th and Knox. At the very least, I think the 27th and Irving barrier should be removed. Similarly to 25th Avenue North, construction on 26th will divert traffic to 27th as well. Even after completion, more drivers may choose streets besides the bikeway.
On college campuses, pathways across green common areas often develop naturally based on how students choose to walk from one place to another. These are called desirability paths, and I believe good neighborhood design recognizes how people choose to move through a community and create thoroughfares that mach such movements. Good design on and around 26th Avenue North should recognize this dynamic and use it to improve our community.