Monday, April 26, 2010

Snow Clearing on Marshall Avenue: A Meeting

No, our snow is all gone. Rather, this entry is about the snow clearing project on Marshall Avenue this past winter. There is a meeting this evening regarding the project, at:

Concordia University
Buenger Education Center
275 Syndicate St N
Saint Paul, MN 55104

Monday April 26, 7:00PM

The topic is the pilot to keep Marshall Avenue clear of snow from the Lake/Marshall bridge up to Cretin or Cleveland (I forget how far exactly). The bridge is one of the few Mississippi River crossings in the Cities, and Marshall Avenue is the street on the Saint Paul side. Heading into Saint Paul, the street climbs a hundred feet or so, meaning eastbound bicycles are slogging uphill.

The problem is that in the winter, snow is scraped off to the side of the road. As happens, the angle of repose is such that it tumbles back in. Cars park out so they can open their passenger-side doors and bicycles get shifted farther and farther out into traffic, annoying to motor vehicles and less safe for cyclists. The plan was to have No Parking on the street during snow emergencies so that the street could be plowed full width, allowing room for the parked cars and for bicycle traffic as well.

This didn't work out.

Part of the reason was that on Christmas, when we had a decent snowfall followed by drizzly rain, the City decided not to be Scrooge-like on Christmas and declare a snow emergency. This holiday gift meant that the piles of snow, then soaked with rain, subsequently froze into immovable ice castles. It certainly happened at our house, where the width that I blew the driveway out Christmas Day was the width it would remain until well into March when it all finally melted away.

It may have been aggravated by Public Works employees slacking off when they should have been working, caught on tape by a local tv station and precipitating the resignation of Public Works Director Bruce Brees from that position (although he fell comfortably back into his old $111,000 a year job as "Administrative Manager for Public Works", man, no wonder my property taxes keep going up!). To be fair, the actual video was people who were supposed to be filling potholes, but one wonders if the same level of effort went into the snow clearing. And commications between departments wasn't very good, so that Traffic Enforcement wasn't aware of the parking ban until quite late in the winter.

Tonight's hearing, on short notice for those of us who don't live in the immediate area, is asking for input on the project. The main effect on the neighbors was the parking ban on selected days, and the way these things are likely to go, those will be the people who show up to complain about it. Not represented unless you and I go there will be people who use the street but don't live right there. We're taxpayers too, remember, it's our street as well, and if you are a Lake/Marshall user, you would be smart to show up and have your say.

If you can't be there in person, you can submit a comment to the Union Park District Council here. You can read about the meeting on the Union Park District Council website.

In summary, Marshall is an important bicycling route year-round because it is one of the few Mississippi Crossings. The road width is such that, if left not fully plowed, parking and then bicycle traffic gets shifted out further and further into the road as the winter goes on. The pilot project and the proposal is not to ban parking entirely; rather, it is to ban parking on specific days so our hard-working Public Works employees can clear the road full width, keeping it safe for all users. For a variety of reasons, it didn't work very well this year. It deserves to be tried again with a better effort next snow season.

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