County plans fewer lanes on Larpenteur to increase safety


Mike Munzenrider Ramsey County plans to convert a stretch of Larpenteur Avenue that borders Roseville from four lanes to three lanes in an effort to increase pedestrian safety.

courtesy of Minnesota Department of Transportation Larpenteur Avenue’s four- to three-lane conversion will create a center left-turn lane while reducing traffic in both directions to a single lane. The change will take place this summer between Dale and Rice streets.

The Roseville City Council was updated April 15 about planned safety improvements to a stretch of Larpenteur Avenue where two pedestrians were killed in a single crash earlier this year. 

Ramsey County plans to convert the four-lane, undivided roadway into three lanes with a center left-turn lane between Dale and Rice streets, said city Public Works Director Marc Culver. 

The work, expected to be done in late summer, will also include three marked crosswalks with center refuge medians on the road, which forms the border between Roseville and St. Paul.

Culver pointed out to the council that the deaths of two Roseville residents, hit by what police say were two different vehicles on Jan. 3 near Woodbridge Court, is not the main reason for the planned work.

“It’s never our intention to do improvements simply as a reaction to these types of incidents and we would hope to be as proactive as possible to avoid these types of tragedies,” he said.

Talk of making changes to the near mile-long stretch of road predates this year, Culver said. Pedestrian improvements for the area are included in the Rice-Larpenteur Gateway Area Vision Plan that was adopted by Roseville, St. Paul and Maplewood last summer.

Discussions about improving walking conditions on the road also picked up following the 2017 opening of the Community School of Excellence on the St. Paul side of Larpenteur, Culver said.

 

Fewer lanes, better crossings

A March 31 community meeting about improving safety on Larpenteur showed that folks who live in and commute through the area have concerns about crossing the avenue, as well as lighting throughout the Dale to Rice stretch, Culver said.

The speed limit is 45 mph headed east on Larpenteur toward Rice, where it’s reduced to 35 mph just ahead of the intersection.

Culver said the county aims to improve pedestrian crossings by reducing the number of lanes from four to three, which will allow for the refuge medians to be built in the center turn lane at the planned crosswalks, while requiring crossers to traverse fewer lanes.

Admitting that 45 mph is pretty fast even for how the roadway is currently laid out, Culver said the repainted road would likely slow traffic even without a reduction in the posted speed limit.

For this year, the county will grind away Larpenteur’s current paint job and replace it with the new three-lane configuration. Culver said a clearer and more permanent repainting is planned for next year, when the county will apply a “micro-surface” coating to the road for the new configuration, which will eliminate remnants of the former striping. 

A second phase of the four- to three-lane conversion is also planned, and would extend the changes past Rice Street and east into Maplewood, ending at Agate Street near Interstate 35E. Ramsey County eventually plans to convert all of its four-lane roads to three lanes.

Culver said that once crosswalks are in place, Roseville would look at improving lighting around them; it’s currently city policy to only light intersections, cul-de-sacs and marked crossings. Officially reducing the speed limit through the stretch, he said, would require working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

To match up with a sidewalk Roseville installed in 2017 on the north side of Larpenteur, Culver said St. Paul is installing a sidewalk on the south side of the road. The county will also stripe bike lanes from Dale to Rice.

“I love that a sidewalk is going in,” said council member Jason Etten, who lives in the area. “There’s nothing like creating a crosswalk to have people jump a curb and into what will be a snowbank three, four, five months a year.”

Ramsey County is holding a neighborhood meeting about the lane conversion plans on Tuesday, April 30, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Community School of Excellence, located at 270 Larpenteur Ave., in St. Paul.

 

–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

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