Progress on Snelling median moving slowly

By Tressa Versteeg

A median cutting through Snelling Avenue has been planned for three and a half years. A construction date has still not been set due to a lack of sufficient funds raised by a fundraising campaign still in its preliminary stages.According to High Winds Fund Director Tom Welna, it is not yet possible to project a date when adequate funds will be raised for the project, which is estimated to cost $500,000 to $750,000. The goal of the project is to make it safer for pedestrians to cross Snelling, while calming traffic and beautifying the area.

Macalester-Groveland community members proposed the median three and a half years ago. They asked the High Winds Fund to address the “chaos” of Snelling.

“Macalester College took the challenge from the community seriously and has led and facilitated this much-needed change,” Welna said. His goal is that a median will one day stretch from Interstate Highway 94 and continue to Highland Park.

Since then the Department of Public Works, the Macalester-Groveland Community Council and the Minnesota Department of Public Transportation have been working with Macalester and the High Winds Fund to implement the idea. For six weeks last October, the first traffic tests were carried out by city traffic engineers. There was a chance for public comment during this time, in which 79 percent of residents who responded by email, phone or letter approved the project. The project was approved by the Macalester-Groveland Community Council in January.

“[The median] would turn a street that now looks a lot like a freeway into a parkway. It would greatly enhance pedestrian safety and make our campus more accessible to the community,” Welna said.

The median would provide a 10 foot wide pedestrian refuge to ease crossing the street. Trees and other landscaping will “soften the streetscape” and add shade and muffle traffic noise, as well as encourage drivers to drive more calmly, Welna said. This overall “neighborhood beautification” will drive up property values as well. The High Winds Fund is working with City and State officials, as well as residents, on design ideas.

One issue the project has faced is finding a broad-base of support in the community, Welna said, despite the public nature of the project. Community member focus groups, public forums, as well as Public Works traffic engineers have developed ideas about the median. Various informative mailings have gone out to about 1,200 residents in the past two years.