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Summit Avenue Regional Trail proposal driving passionate debate

Plan to redesign St. Paul’s historic Summit Avenue sparks debate
Plan to redesign St. Paul’s historic Summit Avenue sparks debate 02:26

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A plan to redesign St. Paul's historic Summit Avenue is driving passionate debate among neighbors and those who travel on the iconic avenue. 

Until Feb. 28, the city is taking public comments on the Summit Avenue Regional Trail and proposed plans for a raised, separated bike path. 

"Really, over the winter in some places, the bike lane disappears completely," Zack Mensinger said.

Zack Mensinger is co-chair of the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition. He's among those in support of the city's draft plan to convert Summit Avenue into a regional trail system.

"I'm an everyday cyclist, literally year round. I rode 7,000 miles last year, and I don't ride on Summit most of the time because it doesn't feel safe," Mensinger said.  

The proposal would move bike lanes off the street to an elevated, separated trail.

"I think it really does benefit all users of the corridor in significant ways," he said.

Advocates against the proposal think it will do the opposite of its intention, and create more safety hazards.

"Just wait until you add conflict points like this driveway back here, that a car coming out of it now stops to wait for both bike and car traffic now - it's going to sit on a bike lane until it's safe to go in," Summit Avenue resident Patrick Rhone said.

Rhone is involved in Save Our Street (SOS), "a citizens group that formed to protect St. Paul's treasured street from the City's Summit Regional Trail proposal that would dramatically change the avenue's tree canopy, historic character and safety for all users," according to its website.

Rhone is worried about parking impacts and wants the city to first consider less costly options like a high visibility bike lane or more narrow roads to naturally decrease drivers' speed.

"We're looking to build a bike lane and spend $12 million for no guarantee of safety and in fact the likelihood of decreased safety it's ridiculous," he said.

Bob Cattanach, a cyclist and longtime resident of Summit Avenue is against the proposal. He's concerned the project will force trees to be removed.

"There are plenty of places you can put the trail but you can't put one on Summit Avenue without destroying the historic character or destroying the trees," he said.

The city says it would look for opportunities to work on the trail alongside roadway upgrades.

"With any project, there's going to be compromises and sacrifices but I think what we get back from this project is going to be a lot more than anything that might get lost in the process," Mensinger said.

The plan would likely be installed over the next 10-15 years if approved and funding secured.

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