SSP finalizing plans for Fifth Avenue South renovation

courtesy of City of South St. Paul South St. Paul plans to add bump outs to Fifth Avenue South as part of its $5.4 million renovation of the road. Bump outs help reduce parking illegally close to intersections and improve pedestrian safety.

The South St. Paul City Council voted Jan. 22 to unanimously move forward with the renovation of Fifth Avenue South, giving the City Engineering Department the green light to finalize plans. 

The estimated $5.4 million project will include a full street reconstruction emphasizing traffic safety and accessibility, as well as updates to the avenue’s water and sanitation infrastructure. Construction is expected to begin this spring and be completed by the fall. 

Following a public hearing, council members made one adjustment to the plans before approving the project. While the initial feasibility report proposed removing the four-way stops at Fourth and Sixth streets, the council decided to keep the intersections unchanged after residents expressed concern. 

The renovation will completely repave the road and sidewalks between Southview Boulevard and Park Street, replacing 50-year-old concrete that is showing advanced deterioration. Lifelong resident Beth Hatfield spoke at the public hearing, expressing both her support for the project as well as her reservations.

“My dad would sit at the dining room table and he would say, ‘Bus is coming, it’s down at Roosevelt,’ and you could hear that bus coming,” she said. “It would rock the cement slabs all the way up to the house. [The road] needed it back then, it needs it now.”

Hatfield also said she had some worries about the upcoming construction, based on the recently completed Southview Boulevard renovation.

“There is a machine that they use. It is a round roller and it smooths out the dirt but it also tamps,” she said of the Southview work. “When it does that, the vibration is so unbelievable. My entire house shook the entire time.”

She noticed many of her doors and windows were askew after that work was done, and noted additional spider cracks around her home. Hatfield stressed the importance of using machinery that is compatible with the area’s older homes. 


Sidewalks and assessments

In addition to repaving, the reconstruction will narrow Fifth Avenue slightly, allowing for increased green space and trees along the boulevard. The street’s reduced width will not significantly impact traffic flow or the amount of parking; Fifth Avenue will remain a two-lane thoroughfare with two designated parking lanes. 

While a couple of residents spoke in favor of the additional green space, some expressed concern over the trees potentially upheaving their sidewalk. 

“Trees are beautiful, but I want to know how they’re being implemented,” said resident Natalie Lindh. “As a homeowner, I’m going to have to replace the sidewalk.”

Residents will be able to have some say in whether or not they would like a tree near their home. City Engineer Lee Elfering also assured homeowners that the potential impact on sidewalks was being taken into consideration.

“There are three or four specific species that we will allow that won’t cause a problem with the sidewalks,” he said.  

As part of the renovation, the city plans to replace the deteriorating water main running underneath Fifth Avenue, as well as all water service lines from the main line to the curb. Service lines running from curb stops into homes are the responsibility of the property owner. While it is not mandatory, there are a number of lead service lines along Fifth Avenue that residents are strongly encouraged to replace. 

Elfering said that while it’s possible there might be additional lead pipes the city hasn’t discovered, those addresses believed to have lead services were listed in a letter recently sent out to all Fifth Avenue residents. There are grants and loans available through the city to help residents with replacement costs. 

Funding for the Fifth Avenue renovation will come through a combination of utility funds, state aid and property assessments. Residents living in standard single-family homes and duplexes will be assessed $89.40 per foot of property fronting Fifth Avenue, up to 75 feet. For all other properties, there is no maximum footage and side yards will be assessed. 

Residents typically have 10 to 15 years to pay off assessments, with interest beginning to accrue after the first year. There are deferral options for those of a certain age on a fixed income. 

There will be a designated assessment hearing in the fall. The city will hold an open house this winter after plans are finalized. Council members said they look forward to getting additional resident feedback.   


–Bridget Kranz can be reached at

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