Through grant funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Center for Prevention’s 2017 Active Places Demonstration Project, we sought to empower residents to imagine and advocate for infrastructure changes that protect the safety of the residential streets in the Midway area. We hosted a block party with area churches on September 9 at Shields and Roy Streets to demonstrate solutions and get feedback.
The demonstration project gave people an opportunity to visualize several specific infrastructure changes, including a diagonal diverter through the intersection of Shields and Fry, a shared vehicle/bicycle lane, a separated protected bicycle lane, and a shared woonerf-type streetscape. Our engagement through surveys, a gallery of images, a large map, and one-on-one conversations with staff and volunteers gave residents a chance to express their preferred ideas for this area.
Through this engagement, we learned a majority of survey respondents would not prefer to have Shields Street closed permanently to vehicles. But, there is strong agreement about advocating for street closures on days when there is a soccer match at the nearby stadium. We also learned that dedicated separated bike lanes for Shields in this area are much preferred over a bikeway shared with vehicles. Our engagement also demonstrated that a narrowed roadway with more emphasis on public seating had some support, but was not a priority.
Of all ideas listed on our survey, illustrated through our gallery of images, and demonstrated on the street, the diagonal diverter was most often selected as the best idea to advance for this area. The diverter would direct traffic towards the Spruce Tree Center and away from the residences in the area, protecting them from through-traffic and event parking. While some neighbors had particular concerns about their ability to navigate through the neighborhood, if those issues could be adequately addressed, there seems to be resounding support for that type of infrastructure change.
This project has been instrumental in demonstrating to our City Councilmember and city staff that the neighborhood adjacent to the stadium development must be considered and accommodated in their planning efforts. We have illustrated that more is required than permit parking in the neighborhood (a typical alternative to the creative infrastructure changes we demonstrated) to enhance the walkability and protect the livability of residents there. Diagonal diverters are not popular in St. Paul, but we now have city planners and elected officials considering the implementation of one here.