LRT construction will force buses off of Washington Ave., into Dinkytown

Summer light rail construction will redirect 15 bus routes.

by Jennifer Bissell

Once students leave campus for summer vacation, Dinkytown usually seems empty. But after May 14, the roads will feel anything but.
As Central Corridor light-rail construction shuts down Washington Avenue at the end of the semester, all cars and buses will be rerouted.
Cars will fill the campus artery for the last time as mid-May brings the permanent detour onto East River Road.
Buses, however, will be allowed back onto Washington once construction is complete, which will take at least a year.
All of the rerouting will go to University Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast. Routes 16 and 50 will enter Dinkytown from East River Road, and suburban express buses will enter from the 10th Avenue Bridge.
While some commuters may find the detour an inconvenience, some Dinkytown businesses see a silver lining. An increase in bus traffic means an increase in foot traffic too.
âÄúHopefully people will get off the buses in Dinkytown and see what we have to offer,âÄù House of Hanson Grocery Store owner Laurel Bauer said. âÄúI donâÄôt know what else I could imagine that would be an improvement than bringing people here.âÄù
During daily rush hours specifically, 150 buses on 15 different routes will be in the area, according to a Student  Neighborhood Liaison.
However, since light-rail construction started earlier in St. Paul, few businesses have felt the boost Dinkytown is anticipating.
Businesses along University Avenue in St. Paul, where construction started earlier, have struggled. With no traffic on Washington Avenue, Stadium Village businesses fear theyâÄôll be forgotten too.
âÄúEveryone is open for business,âÄù Dairy Queen owner Chris Ferguson said. âÄúThe quicker we can work through the construction, the quicker we can get to the end of it.âÄù
While Dinkytown and Stadium Village businesses may be fighting over the commuters, most agree that safety is the biggest concern.
Stadium Village businesses have previously expressed concern over ensuring pedestrian walkways have barriers and proper lighting near the construction zones.
With the increase in traffic, Dinkytown businesses are concerned for the safety of pedestrians and bikers, considering at least six people have been hit by cars around campus since October.
âÄúIt always makes me nervous when it gets busier,âÄù Dinkytown Business Association President Skott Johnson said. âÄúWe just have to be careful with all of the traffic and people here, [reflecting on] what can we do better or improve so we donâÄôt have these accidents.âÄù
Andrew Freerks, a student liaison for the Marcy Holmes neighborhood and who has researched the rerouting, said his major concern is the pedestrian crossing at University Avenue and Fourth Street, especially near 12th Avenue where the bridge circulator bus stops.
Freerks said heâÄôd like to see pedestrian crosswalk signage installed to direct cars to stop when pedestrians are present.
Graduate student Nicole Waxmonsky, who teaches traffic biking with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, said when traveling near buses, bicyclists should avoid passing buses on the right, stay out of blind spots and ride where a carâÄôs right tires would be if there is no bike line.
âÄúYou have to bike defensively,âÄù Waxmonsky said. âÄúWe have to behave like a motorized vehicle. ItâÄôs more safe that way.âÄù