It didn’t look like the weather was going to cooperate on August 28th, but by 4 PM the rain had stopped, and we called it: the ride was a go! Our group of Move Minnesota staff and community members met in Saint Paul at the Hmong Village. Our goal was to learn more about how the future Rush Line bus rapid transit project will impact the Bruce Vento Bike Trail. We also wanted community members to share ideas for how to better co-locate the biking and walking trail with bus lanes, and how stations will one day connect with surrounding communities.
Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority is developing a master plan for the five-mile segment of right-of-way between Johnson Parkway in Saint Paul and Buerkle Road in Maplewood. The vision is to co-locate the Bruce Vento Trail and Rush Line bus rapid transit (BRT) within the 100-foot right-of-way. They are looking for input regarding the trail location, landscaping and tree preservation, lighting, and the design of marked and signed trail crossings to address safety of trail users at street and BRT crossings.
Frank Alarcón from Ramsey County and Maria Wardoku from Alta Planning + Design joined the ride to share more details on the project, specifically around route alignment, station locations, and corridor dimensions. They also prepped the group to think about ways to incorporate other improvements to biking and walking that could be included in the project.
Fourteen of us started by crossing the street at the newly installed flashing beacon on Johnson Parkway and the Hmong Village entrance at Ames Avenue. The flashing yellow crossing seemed to stop traffic well, even during rush hour traffic, and it was very much needed based on the number of vehicles traveling on Johnson Parkway. Crossing Phalen Avenue on Johnson Parkway felt more daunting and it was clear traffic-calming improvements are still needed here. Vehicles were turning every which way and at speeds that felt uncomfortable even when biking in a big group!
We first stopped at Phalen Village and learned how the bus rapid transit lanes and mixed-use trail would align on Phalen Avenue, turning north on an elevated bridge to Johnson Parkway. We then stopped at Maryland Avenue and viewed where the station would be located, on the east side of Johnson on Maryland Avenue. The group continued up the Bruce Vento Trail toward Lake Phalen, until reaching Larpenteur Avenue.
At the Bruce Vento/Larpenteur intersection, we stopped to learn more details about another station location, and Maria from Alta Planning + Design helped visualize potential dimensions for the new corridor. From the west she measured out a potential 50-foot buffer, which will vary up and down the corridor, then two bus lanes measuring 28 feet across together, approximately a five foot buffer, a 12-foot shared bicycle and walking trail and then another potential 12-foot buffer, which will also vary along the corridor.
After some conversation, the group continued north to Frost Avenue and gathered at the trail entrance to give feedback on survey worksheets provided by Ramsey County. The worksheets gave participants the opportunity to comment on station platform locations, preferences for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements, and how to best connect to surrounding neighborhoods.
People shared a variety of feedback and ideas. Among them, seating, wayfinding, and fix-it stations were by far the most requested features along the trail, followed by lighting, which was a top priority for some. People also requested bike racks, especially near businesses. Native plantings were a top choice for green space. All feedback community members shared on our ride, and the other public input Ramsey County collects, will inform the trail master planning work happening in 2019.
At the Frost Avenue trail entrance, we couldn’t help but notice a confusing, old sign that was badly needing an update. It reads: “Please enjoy this trail. This right of way is designated for possible future light rail transit and trail use. If you have questions, please call 651-266-____. Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.”
So, yes, we will be asking for better trail signage to better explain this BRT project to the community! 🙂
In the meantime, visit Ramsey County’s website for more project information and to sign up for future updates on this project.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the ride and shared questions and concerns. Community input is so important! This is a complex project that holds great opportunity to better connect people to Saint Paul destinations like Lake Phalen and Hmong Village, as well as connecting to the East Metro suburbs. Our hope is that it will ultimately lead to more people walking, biking, and riding transit–if these options are combined in a way that serves both the region and the local community. Be sure to watch for more ways to be engaged in Rush Line + Bruce Vento Trail conversations in 2019.
Post updated 09-12-18 to describe community input shared on the ride.