South St. Paul road projects given the green light

The Rush Line Corridor Policy Advisory Committee approved a draft of a route for the bus rapid transit line. The downtown St. Paul part of the route will run from Phalen Village to the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul via Phalen Boulevard, Pennsylvania Avenue, Jackson Street and Robert Street. It will then follow the Bruce Vento bike trail in the Ramsey County Railroad Authority right-of-way. North of Interstate 694 the route will run along Highway 61 in its own dedicated lane.


Hannah Burlingame
Review staff

South St. Paul is the latest of many cities to talk about roadwork for the coming year. After several weeks of discussion, the city council approved a number of road projects, which include resurfacing as well as removing the deeper bituminous layer and replacing it.

Chris Hartzell, South St. Paul city engineer, said these types of projects help extend the lifespan of the roadway.

“In the long run, this is a significant cost savings to both the homeowners and the city,” Hartzell said.  

Because these projects are council-initiated projects, a six-vote approval was needed. The council carried out its final vote on projects April 3.




Work to be done

Armour Avenue, from Concord Street North to Hardman Avenue, is proposed to have a mill and overlay of existing bituminous surface — resurfacing —  curb and gutter removal and replacement, pedestrian ramp replacements, utility upgrades and restoration, among other work. The overall cost of the project is estimated at $281,000. Roughly $93,500 of this cost would be funded by assessments to residents.

Several roadways are proposed for bituminous removal and replacement. They include portions of Grande Avenue, BridgePoint Drive, Concord Exchange North, Fifth Avenue North, 15th Avenue North, 16th Avenue North and Hawley Avenue. 

Hartzell said this type of work removes and replaces the entire asphalt pavement surface but leaves curbs and driveways intact.

Construction is expected to begin in late spring and end in late August.

The total estimated cost of the bituminous removal and replacement projects is approximately $1.22 million, with roughly $520,000 covered by assessments. 

In accordance with the adopted assessment policy, Hartzell said the 2017 assessment rates are $17.95 per foot for mill and overlay projects, and $46.90 per foot for bituminous removal and replacement. 

The maximum length that can be assessed to single family and duplex properties is 75 feet. There’s no maximum length of assessment for commercial and multi-family properties.


Opposition on Fifth Avenue

During a public hearing about proposed roadwork at the March 20 City Council meeting, several residents spoke out against work slated for Fifth Avenue North.

Adam Hughes said he talked with several of his neighbors and had eight signatures on a petition asking for no action to be taken until more information is heard. He said he and his neighbors had questions, including whether the project could be postponed, or whether the road could be resurfaced instead of undergoing bituminous removal and replacement

“It’s not so much about the cost ... I think it’s more about is there a need right now,” Hughes said. 

Hartzell said when city staff looks at projects there are a number of factors to be considered. With road projects, the city is trying to carry out work early enough so that a full reconstruction is not needed. He added it’s been more than 20 years since Fifth Avenue North had its last improvement project. The pavement is in a condition that needs to be addressed.

Council member Tom Seaberg said they are looking at an inflationary cost increase each year the project is put off. He said he would caution against people putting it off because it will cost more in the long run.

“[Delaying] may seem like a good thing to do right now, but the feds just raised interest rates ... so I don’t think this is going to get any cheaper,” Seaberg said.

If it turns into a full replacement, the assessment rates per foot go up significantly for assessments. 


Seperation of church and street

Deb Franzen is another resident who lives on Fifth Avenue North. She asked why Fifth Avenue North residents were being assessed at all. She said the city code on assessments stated costs could be assessed to properties benefited by the improvement, based on benefits received.

“I’m kind of curious what kind of benefits us as homeowners get from this street improvement,” Franzen said, adding they have alley access parking so many don’t use the street. 

She said a majority of the street traffic is from a nearby church, adding the people benefiting from the work the most are those who attend the church. She asked if they were being assessed. 

Churches are assessed, Hartzell said, noting the church would end up being assessed quite a bit of money.


What about 16th Avenue North?

Also at the March 20 meeting, some residents from 16th Avenue North voiced their opinion that their roadway did not need to be done this year, either. 

Marcia Petersen said she was there on behalf of her neighbors, many of whom are elderly. Petersen said out of the 18 homes on the street, 17 signed the petition she gave council. 

“There are 25 adults in those homes that are opposed to this street [project],” Petersen said, noting all of them were fine waiting for the roadway to be done at a later date.

She added that the argument the project will cost more in the future if it is not done now is a moot point, since that is always the case.



A decision is made

The council discussed the possibility of delaying either the 16th Avenue North of Fifth Avenue North projects, based on residents’ opposition. 

Council member Todd Podgorski said the council finds itself in an interesting dilemma because there are residents speaking out against the more affordable option of a bituminous reconstruction, while being willing to wait for the more expensive option of a reconstruction. 

He added that while the council is there to listen to the city’s residents, it’s also there to spend all residents’ tax dollars efficiently.

Podgorski moved to pull the Fifth and 16th avenue projects out of the blanket road work resolution, to vote on them separately — the motion died for lack of a second. In the end, all projects passed unanimously.


Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or

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