A Walkable, Bikeable Raymond Avenue
By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
Among the improvements that make Raymond Ave. more walkable: six feet of sidewalk and a new pedestrian median in front of the Hampden Park Co-op.
Saint Paul’s newest complete street was celebrated at a community gathering on a cold evening in early December. Residents and neighborhood staff, bundled in winter gear, walked the refurbished segment of Raymond Avenue from University Avenue north to Hampden and then reminisced, clapped, and cried over cookies and hot chocolate.
It was a celebratory moment a long time in the making: The street project, led by the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, took nearly a decade of planning, advocacy, and public engagement. Community leaders in the effort—Nancy Dilts, Stephen Mastey, and John Siqveland, and many others—were thanked for the hundreds of volunteer hours they contributed.
Raymond is a busy, curving, north-south artery—one of a limited number of links over the main line railroad tracks in Saint Paul. It is also a bus and bike route. And the corridor connects a new light rail transit station on University Avenue with new east-west bike lanes on Como Avenue (a Bike Walk Twin Cities-funded project).
Residents, long frustrated by speeding traffic, dangerous pedestrian crossings, and wide expanses of unused pavement, led the planning for a new design of Raymond. The project had strong support from Saint Paul City Council members Jay Benanav and Russ Stark and Department of Public Works staff.
The new street is really eye-popping for people who remember what it looked like before reconstruction. The old Raymond, built at a time when the priority was simply to move more cars faster, encouraged speeding. The street had large areas of unused pavement at overly wide intersections, it was dangerous to cross on foot, and it lacked street lighting to make walking and waiting for transit at night feel comfortable.
For years neighbors worked with the City on speed enforcement, speed display, and promotion of the crosswalk law with minimal effect on driving behavior.
Today, the transformed Raymond Avenue is dramatic for its green and safe-speed design. Shrinking down those wide intersections allowed for more sidewalk space, storm water infiltration basins (which will look like rain gardens to most of us), a half-acre of new park land right across from the community co-op grocery store, and new pedestrian medians. One mile of new bike lanes was added, along with new trees and pedestrian-scale lighting.
One mile of new north-south bike lanes improves the bikeability of Raymond Ave. The route also connects to the new BWTC-funded east-west bike lanes on Como Ave.
Be sure to get out and take a look! Hats off to the City and the neighborhood for all the good work!
And if your neighborhood group is interested in learning more about this successful effort to improve Raymond Avenue, we encourage you to reach out to Lauren Fulner-Erikson, a community coordinator with St. Anthony Park Community Council (651-649-5992 or lauren[at]sapcc.org), or to city engineering staff Paul St. Martin, Barb Mundahl, or David Kuebler.