SARPA serves on the City of St. Paul's Design Advisory Committee (DAC) for this project. We participated in the DAC meeting hosted on February 15th, 2022. These notes are written out below.

To watch a recording of this meeting, please click here and visit the City of Saint Paul's engagement website. Scroll down to "Project Documents" and under that heading there will be a folder titled "Meeting Materials." Click that folder and a drop down menu will open, containing recordings, pdfs, and slides from meetings regarding this project. Documents relating to the February DAC meeting are titled; "Feb. 15th - DAC Meeting"

Design Advisory Committee (DAC) Meeting Notes
February 15th, 2022
Notes taken by Jack Quale, Former SARPA Vice President

Meeting began at 5:00pm.
Hosted by Mary Norton with the City of St. Paul, and representatives from Bolton & Menk Inc.- the consulting firm working alongside the City.
This document has been edited for clarity and readability. If there are any discrepancies between statements made in this document and information provided by the City of Saint Paul, please defer to information shared by the project managers.

Following the primary presentation, there were three Breakout Groups to discuss three sections of Summit's structure and any possible solutions or non-starters related to the Summit Avenue Master Plan.

Mary's team's goal is to maintain continuous engagement. There will be Post-Meeting Resources sent to the DAC reps and posted on the website in the coming days.

There will be Drop-In Engagement Sessions where representatives can ask any last minute questions or go over points of the project they're concerned/confused about. These sessions are open to the public.
The dates for these sessions are: February 16th, March 16th, and April 13th. More information regarding these Drop-In Engagement Sessions will be posted on the City's engagement website.

Overall Project Context:

This master plan is part of an overarching goal from the Met Council's comprehensive policy plan for the region; its focus is to look for means of connecting existing regional trails (Sam Morgan regional trail and the Mississippi River Boulevard regional trails specifically). Any regional parks and trails that exist in the metro region are guided by the Met Council's comprehensive polity and the City, as the agency responsible for regional parks and trails, are responsible for identifying, planning, and creating the connecting trail.

Summit Avenue has been identified as a Regional Trail Search Corridor. This means that it's been identified as a possible avenue where the connection between Sam Morgan and the Mississippi River Boulevard regional trails. This designation means just that; it is a Regional Trail Search Corridor - it is not, and has not been, confirmed as Regional Trail and will not be approved/promoted to a regional trail until after the Master Plan is complete and presented to the Met Council for approval. The Summit Avenue Regional Trail Master Plan is a comprehensive document of the research, studies, and evidence gathered during the evaluation of Summit as a possible regional trail. This Master Plan will include proposed designs, but as of right now there are no set designs - what we learned from tonight's meeting is they are still exploring their design options and are still seeking more engagement and shared views from the community; from all those who share interest, either for the project or those against it. The Master Plan has not yet been completed - the City is still doing research to figure it out.
It is my understanding Jack Q., that this endeavor is a "done deal" as far as that the City and Met Council intend to create a regional trail corridor that will connect Sam Morgan and Mississippi River Boulevard. Summit seems to be the most obvious option, but they're still researching whether Summit Avenue is legitimately viable.

Project details and background: 

The Master Plan process is being done in a way that tries to anticipate future improvements to the corridor, particularly extending into Downtown St. Paul. The Master Plan is thinking at a high level when it comes down to construction - "How do we implement future improvements? How do we make this regional trail make sense if it is created along Summit?"
In the near term, the City is looking at Lexington Avenue to Victoria Avenue. There are existing city plans for reconstruction of Summit Avenue in 2023, which includes stripping the existing pavement and putting down new blacktop. When that reconstruction happens, the City wants to be conscious of what they put back so it makes sense for future additions and changes. The research they're doing right now is so that when the reconstruction happens in 2023 (which is happening and will not be stopped because the City needs to get that street repaved) they know what can be done.
The goal is to create a trail that is developed for recreational use, meaning one or more modes of non-motorized vehicle transportation )Bikes, pedestrians, strollers, mobility aids, etc.)
For clarification; references of "Facility," "Transportation Facility," or other variations of that phrasing are talking about an Off-Road, paved, recreational trail. In order for this to be considered a Regional Trail, any transportation facility needs to be Off-Road, raised above Road Level/placed behind the curb.

This project is currently not federally funded; this project is working towards a Master Plan, and once/if the plan is approved by the Met Council the City will move forward to secure federal funding. The application process to secure federal funding would not occur until 2024, and the basic (and possibly subject to change) construction timeline for this project would begin in 2028, a good six years from now.

Existing Project Areas:

As referenced earlier in these notes, the City wants to create this Master Plan in the context of other existing, planned/funded, construction endeavors happening on Summit Avenue in the coming years. These existing project areas are part of the Capital Improvement plan:

  • Summit Ave. Mill & Overlay: as part of the Capital Improvement plan for 2022. Snelling to Lexington Parkway is a Mill & Overlay process- meaning skimming and repaving the road. The bike lanes, designated parking lanes, and road-level paint stripes will remain the same, but the road surface will be improved.
  • Summit Ave. Reconstruction; Construction set to take place in 2023, focused on Lexington to Victoria. All property within the right of way is subject to replacement; curbs, gutters, pavement, light fixtures, sidewalks, etc. The City is actively working with the Minnesota/St. Paul Forestry department to handle the preservation of trees, and the removal of potentially diseased trees.
  • Grand Avenue Reconstruction; Fairview Avenue to Snelling. Construction set to take place in 2024- same conditions and outline as the Summit Avenue Reconstruction.
  • Regional Trail Master Plan; set to take place in 2028.

Current Master Plan Schedule:

  • Fall – Winter 2021: Phase 1, Community Engagement. Corridor inventory and analysis, reached out to stakeholders and community members. Meant to identify corridor opportunities and constraints. Community outreach events were held and a web survey was available to the public through January 1st, 2022.
  • Winter – Spring 2021/22: Phase 2, Design and Direction. Current Phase. Begin conceptual design ideas and focus on key areas/intersections. Goal is to gather input and feedback from technical leaders and community groups, particularly regarding data on safer crossings and intersections. They will continue outward community engagement.
    • The first Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting took place a few weeks ago. Those involved in the TAC include (but not limited to, I, Jack Q, might have missed some agencies): MNDot, Ramsey County, Public Works, Forestry Department, etc. Those agencies that offer a technical lens– architecture, technical/industrial viewpoint on the project itself. The recording of the TAC #1 meeting will be posted on the engagestpaul website at the same time as the recording from the DAC #1 meeting (this meeting).
  • Summer 2022: Third Phase, Final Master Plan and Approvals – I did not see the rest of this slide, but this phase depends on the outcomes of the second phase.

Responses from the Engagestpaul website: 

Over 1,200 informed participants on the website– Informed participants are those who’ve taken surveys and participated in activities on the website and downloaded documents for their own viewing/or sharing with others. There were over 760 participants in the survey itself. While the survey is closed, there are still interactive activities on the website like the sticky-note thing and the interactive map
The City has set out On-Site signage (signs stuck in the boulevards and snow banks along Summit) to draw in people who may not know about the project yet. There are virtual drop-in meetings planned, and there will be future focused/targeted engagement meetings for those who are really interested in knowing more; there are no dates set for the focused/targeted engagement meetings, those will be scheduled on an as needed basis.

Responses from community engagement have three main themes:

  • Green Space is paramount – it’s what makes Summit Ave so special, and the Parkway is a literal park for many people, which is “very clear based on how people use it.”
  • Safety is very important – the volume of traffic Summit sees, emphasis on what they have noted in crossings and turning movements made on part of motorized vehicles and cyclists. Comments on this subject include reducing speed, creating different modes of the transportation facility to adapt to each section of Summit’s different geometric structure. It was highlighted as well to keep parked cars in consideration with this project in regards to door swing conflicts and keeping those car-to-pedestrian interactions safe. Facility Conditions regarding Pavement, Roadway, Sidewalk, etc, were also touched on- mainly Snow removal and maintenance. “How can we make this facility more user friendly and maintained?” Keep the unpaved surfaces in consideration and how people use the medians for pedestrian transport.
    • The Median as a space is very unique and it’s a unique part of Summit/the City itself. Focus on the charming points and experiences of Summit must be recognized. They must approach this trail project with a lens of the experiences which make Summit unique.
  • Existing road conditions were also discussed, including the Summit Avenue Bridge over Ayd Mill, the wide sidewalks East of Dale. Discussion on the pavement being in poor condition/in need of reconstruction. Focus on the informal/desire paths that are used. Photographs of Summit’s existing road conditions were shown, including the same areas in the winter. Images highlighted that the center median desire paths are used year round, sun or snow.
  • Cross sections from the River to John Ireland were shown, and it was mentioned that this Regional Trail plan will blend into/become part of the Capital City Bikeway project, especially once it goes past John Ireland and into Downtown.

Mapping is in progress

Slideshow shows an analysis that they’re going into. They are nearing 30% completion of the Master Plan– no definitive date on that completion; they’re still trying to evaluate existing conditions. They have a mapping mock-up created to show that they’re doing a greenspace analysis, showing evidence that they are working with City Forestry to know where landmark trees and Ash Trees are. Identifying where trees are planted, planned to be, and need to be removed: making sure they have an inventory of trees and other greenspace that must be acknowledged during construction.

Corridor Context

Mapping shows other local trails and transit routes; “How do those affect this trail?” Acknowledged importance of parking and how it’s used, and identifying where opportunities for changes can be made. Restrictions; they understand there are smaller details, “Finer grain” of land use that must be studied.

Questions asked before Breakout Session:

Question asker is first identified and answers from City/Bolton & Menk Inc. representatives are noted by an em-dash: “—”

Richard Arie
Was involved with the formation of the Bikes Advisory council years ago; he’s been watching this project from a historical perspective. Discussed briefly the section from Lexington Ave West to Mississippi River Boulevard; explained that it’s part of the National Historic Registry and it was designed by an important figure in St. Paul history & architecture– I, Jack Q, missed the name of the figure. Richard explained that this figure had a vision to connect Minneapolis & St. Paul via a park system. Summit Avenue was done by his design from Lexington to the River, and because of its historic significance Richard opposes changes to curb cuts & geometry of the avenue.
— TAC will focus on a historical analysis, “What would it mean to have a transit facility, and how would it affect the historic integrity” of the two historic districts Summit is part of.

Ian Buck
Part of the St. Paul Bikes Coalition; intrigued to know what facility we’re thinking about. What is it going to look like closer to Sam Morgan trail/Eagle Parkway in Downtown St. Paul? The project scope continues farther into Downtown than initially understood; What will that look like?
— From John Ireland down to Eagle Parkway/7th street specifically is part of the Capital City Bikeway plan; this means that the Summit Regional Trail would blend in/become part of that plan. Eagle Parkway, looking at one side of the street, would potentially include a wide, multi-use facility that would be used by both pedestrians and cyclists. Currently they are evaluating a 10-foot wide multi-use scenario. They would look at existing conditions and planning documents to chart what that cross-section would look like, and the City will collaborate with the Capital City Bikeway planners when it comes to that section of the Summit Regional Trail.

Harry Walsh
How long has Summit Avenue been involved in this Master Plan? Meaning, how long ago was Summit Avenue identified as a potential Regional Trail Search Corridor? Was it always the City’s intention to include Summit Avenue in the overall regional trail system, or was it only just recently identified/included?
— The identification of Summit Avenue as a Regional Trail Search Corridor goes back to the latest edition of the Met Council’s Comprehensive plan, and has only been identified as a possible regional trail in the last decade, most likely sometime after 2013.

Tom Darling
Will meeting minutes & recordings from the TAC meeting be made available to the public so they can be easily viewed? “We’re interested in knowing what the technical folks are thinking about and evaluating.”
—The TAC meeting was recorded, and following this DAC meeting both meeting videos will be uploaded to the Engagestpaul website.

Will previous iterations of the maps & map concept ideas be made available to the public?
— Once the City reaches 30% completion on the Master Plan, those maps & other related documents will be made public.

Harry Walsh
Question regarding the Regional Trail system as a whole. Are there other trails that go through a fully residential area as Summit Avenue does? So much of the regional trail system goes through designated park areas that already exist, but not so many (if any) go through residential areas.
— This project may set the precedent of what a regional trail looks like in an urban/residential area. There are several Regional Trails in Ramsey County/St. Paul, but this regional trail would possibly be the first of its kind. This project seeks to identify what that kind of regional trail (one that goes through an urban/recreational setting) looks like, and how it would work. It may not look like the typical 12-14 foot multi-use regional trail. It will look different to fit the environment; referenced a separation of pedestrians and cyclists.

Richard Aire
Looking at the map showing the current regional trails (in purple) and the proposed regional trail/ Summit as the Regional Trail Search Corridor, there is a bulbous oval surrounding it. What does that represent? Asked what would happen should a greenway be extended across the bridge over Ayd Mill Road; what would happen there? Would there be an off-road trail experience comparable to those in Minneapolis, like the Midtown greenway. I, Jack, don’t understand his question. I believe he was suggesting an alternate corridor for evaluation/took the conversation away from Summit into another area.
—The bulbous oval around Summit is a 1 mile buffer to capture a snapshot of land use. Maps in the future will highlight alternate regional trails, like the Mississippi Gorge. What they have shown on the map in yellow, Summit Avenue,  is the only proposed Search Corridor at the moment, and has been registered in the Regional Parks Policy Plan. They then discussed another possible regional trail not related to Summit at all, but Sam Morgan instead.

Breakout Sessions:

Discussion Objective: prioritizing where the trail can physically land. Are there any schematic “non-starters''? Why, or why not? Look for red flags from your personal experience, and think about what would stop you, or concern you, with a trail in a specific location. 

Main meeting group was separated into three breakout groups:

  • Group A, Blue. Focuses on segments of Summit Avenue where there is a single median. 
    • Jack Q. joined Group A
  • Group B, Green. Focuses on segments of Summit where there is a double median.
    • Harry W. joined Group B
  • Group C, Orange. Focuses on segments of Summit where there is no median.
    • Tom D. joined Group C

Breakout room time: (Group A perspective)

1st exercise: Trail experience. Think of words that pop into your head. 

  • Scenic
  • Efficient
  • Traffic-free
  • Accessible
  • Green

2nd exercise: Identify existing conditions related to the single median.
The single median happens two times along Summit; Mississippi River Boulevard to Fairview, and then Hamline to Lexington. 200ft of right of way. Existing conditions include 1 directional through lanes, a bike buffer between bike lane and driving lane; parked cars are right up against the bike lane and curb. Everything is paved and marked with on-road paint. Mirror image type street with the two separate roads on either side of the single median. 21ft boulevard and 6ft sidewalks. Comparatively different from Dale where there are 10ft sidewalks. 

As a [blank] I feel that [blank] is important for an ideal trail experience:

  • Cyclist; safe crossings
  • Pedestrian; well lit, accessible/visible way-finding signage 
  • Pedestrian; wide sidewalks
  • Driver; well organized, calm– everything is where you expect it to be
  • Historian; respecting existing geometrics of road & median– geometrics meaning where the median is, where the curb is, and where the streets are. If you move the curb to make the central median narrower, or you start making parkways next to residences larger or smaller, it affects the geometrics.

Baseline Conditions necessary for an ideal trail: 

  • Bike and pedestrian facilities for a regional trail are above the curb, meaning 6-8 inches above the road surface. 
  • Maintenance, meaning a standard level of service. Keeping the trail plowed during the winter would be an example of that maintenance. 
  • Boulevard impacts; keeping sidewalks and curbs limited to 8-10 (feet? Inches? Unit was unclear) of trees. Working with the forestry department, they want to limit the impact on trees and root systems. They know preserving trees is important and want to do what’s best to maintain the greenspace of Summit Ave.

Critical Feedback: 

Possible feedback topics include:

  • Multi-Use Scenario Vs. Separate Bike & Pedestrian realms. 
  • IF separated, would the cycle track be 2 one-way tracks, or 1 two-way track. 
  • Facility in the median or not
  • Parking; restrictions and/or removal

I, Jack Q, shared that I believe a facility in the center median would be inappropriate. People use that space as a park, and putting a paved path in the middle, or even side of that median, would not only take away from the available greenspace but will cause issues when it comes to coordinating intersections, especially intersections that do not have lights.

Reports from Group A, B, and C:

Ian Buck, Group A representative: 

Our group focused on the sections of Summit that have a large center median. There was a broad consensus for separated pedestrian and cycling facilities; it might mean that a cycling trail that is quite a bit separated from the sidewalk, or they may be conjoining facilities but each have distinctive tactile & visual differences to better aid in the separation & safety for those using either path. Group A also discussed that throughout the whole corridor there must be consistent placement of the regional trail so that everyone involved, pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists, are aware of where everyone else is at various crossings.
We wanted to avoid putting the trail directly down the center of the large median because we want to preserve its potential use for picnics and desire-paths, effectively preserving the unique aspect of Summit avenue in that regard. Discussed having a cycling facility that is up on a curb just to the right of the parking lane; swapping the bike & parking spaces, then, but maintaining a buffer space between parked cars and those driving on the road. It would keep cyclists on the right of cars where drivers expect, and would still offer those parking on the avenue access to the curbed boulevard. Did not have a chance to discuss more explicit placements or conflicts with other parking positions.

Dave Pasiuk, Group B representative:

Group B came up with a similar solution to Group A. Their focus was just east of Snelling to just west of Fairview with double medians, near MaCalester & Ramsey middle. Highlighted the importance of access and egress; merging different sections easily and doing something similar to Group A; elevate the current bike lane, leave the center roadway as is, and maintain the side streets as parking space.

Changing the light system for Snelling & Summit; that intersection as is is dangerous for all involved. It needs to be researched and re-worked to protect all involved. Raising the bike lane where it is, gives what he calls a soft landing for cyclists should they need to swerve and get out of the street; they’re not sandwiched between moving & parked cars. Repurpose some of that current environment? Discussion from the main group explained that the TAC discussed some of those parking and intersection issues. It is really complicated and will take a lot of research to sort out.

Sonja Mason, Group C representative:

Came up with a similar solution to Groups A & B; focused on spaces where there is no median. The roadway is too narrow, and it’s really hard to fit all the things that need to fit into it. There was a general consensus that parking needs are important, and eliminating parking on one side would negatively impact nearby schools, the university club, and residents- especially those who live in multi-family households and apartment complexes on that section of Summit Ave.
Desire to separate pedestrians and cyclists; keep those moving at slow speeds away from those who move at fast speeds. Appreciation of wide sidewalks, like the 10ft walks east of dale. Difficulty of moving snow and fitting everything we need was a hard issue. Was there a way to have the current bike facilities on Summit stay where they are, and then explore a designated bikeway on Portland ave or another adjoining street. They did not get to discuss that option in detail because time ran short. Preservation of trees and greenspace was a big topic. They struggled with how to fit all of the things without cutting into the greenspace and risking tree damage.
Tom Darling made it a point to say that he wants those watching this presentation to know that we do not have to accept current designs and we can fight it to make this plan fit the community’s desired requirements for the trail. Harry Walsh agrees with Tom. 

Their group discussed a two way bike-lane, not full consensus but it was generally not preferred. While there are bike trails through other residential areas, Summit has a unique bit of architecture that may pose issues; the governor's mansion. It’s a minor point, but should be considered; it’s a public place of gathering and protest. If bike lanes are moved onto the boulevard, that would impede movement of the regional trail. There was further discussion of protests and how they usually stay on the boulevard, and make way for those who need to get through the space. If a protest does spill out into the street, all traffic on the boulevard is affected, not just the bike trail. I, Jack Q, thought back to Summer 2021 during the Line 3 protest when state troopers blocked all traffic from crossing in front of the governor’s mansion, including residents who lived within that section of Summit or just past it.

Next Steps:

The following week there will be opportunities for DAC follow-up and comments. 

Drop-In Virtual Engagement Sessions taking place in February, March, and April

Master Plan Document Drafts will be published as they reach 30%, 60%, and 90% completion

April TAC meeting #2; their discussion will be informed based on this meeting’s feedback and discussion. The next DAC meeting should take place in April, as well. 

Until then, watch the Engagestpaul website for future updates and uploads from the City.