The federal government is sending nearly $8 million in infrastructure grants to St. Paul to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety along East Seventh and Arcade streets, as well as study ways to improve transportation connectivity in the historic Rondo neighborhood.
"These federal funds will expand connectivity across our city," Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement that also thanked U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum for their advocacy.
Carter called the planned uses for the grant money — $6.5 million for the East Side reconstruction efforts and $1.4 million for the Rondo study — "vital projects that will have a lasting impact in our community."
St. Paul and the Minnesota Department of Transportation were awarded Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants through the U.S. Department of Transportation. The money is intended to help pay for planning and construction of road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives.
The Rondo planning grant will fund a study of transportation improvements within the neighborhood and adjacent areas. "The plan will use a holistic, community centered planning process looking at the transportation needs in a primarily Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community that was disrupted when I-94 was built," the federal Transportation Department said.
Reuben Collins, transportation planning manager for St. Paul Public Works, said the first step will be to learn what residents want. Officials will have a better idea of when that effort will begin by early 2022, he said.
"We are taking a holistic approach to all the different [transportation] nodes out there," Collins said.
Keith Baker, executive director of ReConnect Rondo — a nonprofit that has proposed construction of a land bridge over part of Interstate 94 — said the grant will help examine what he called "mobility equity."
"It will study what's needed in public works infrastructure, for transit, for walkability, bikeability, to serve the community more effectively," Baker said.
He said that besides Rondo, the study area includes the adjoining Summit-University and Frogtown neighborhoods. The goal, Baker said, is to coordinate the study with current work exploring the Rondo land bridge.
On the East Side, the grant money for East Seventh and Arcade streets will pay for sidewalk improvements, additional lighting and more safe crosswalks. The project will include road resurfacing, sidewalk repairs, traffic signal replacements and bus stop improvements.
The federal RAISE transportation grants are being awarded equally to urban and rural projects. For this round, the maximum grant is $25 million, and no more than $100 million can be awarded to a single state.