Nothing gets suburban legislators at the Minnesota Capitol cranked up more than having to slow down when driving on Interstate 35E in Saint Paul.
The freeway speed limit is restricted to 45 mph because of a deal state officials made with residents in 1984 in exchange for upgrading Pleasant Avenue from a parkway to a highway.
For years since, lawmakers have tried to undo the speed limit without success. But every session, the attempt reappears.
Today was that day, with legislators trying a new tack: Banning truck traffic in downtown Saint Paul.
Currently, trucks are banned from the section of I-35E, so perennial speed limit critic Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville proposed the following amendment today to a larger transportation funding package
“Sec. 26. REDUCTION OF COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC.
The commissioner of transportation, in consultation with the city of St. Paul, shall design and implement restrictions on the operation of commercial vehicles, within the meaning of Minnesota Statutes, section 169.011, subdivision 16, along the segment of West Seventh Street between its intersection with marked Interstate Highway 35E and downtown St. Paul. The restrictions must be designed to reduce the level of commercial vehicle traffic on the described section of West Seventh Street.
There was no chance such an intrusion into a city’s business was going to pass, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from the joy of poking Saint Paul in the eye.
“The precedent in this body is to do those things without their consent,” Sen. David Hann said about the objection that the Senate was interfering with Saint Paul. “We did the bullying bill that no district asked for because we know better.”
“There’s business and restaurants on that street, so it’s totally appropriate to have commercial vehicles there,” countered Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul. “I don’t know how all of you would feel if one of your colleagues said that a commercial avenue in your district by legislative mandate couldn’t take commercial vehicles. It seems an inappropriate intrustion into … businesses that need to have things picked up and delivered.”
“It’s an intrusion on our country,” Sen. Hall responded. “I can’t imagine that people on Seventh Street want that traffic coming day and night. I would think the Saint Paul legislators would jump on this one.”
“It’s not healthy,” Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, said of the Senate’s newfound concern for West Seventh Street. “It’s not good from a safety perspective.”
The Senate shot down the bill easily, but Hall wasn’t done. He immediately filed an amendment calling for I-35W to be renamed the “Senator Sandy Pappas and Senator Richard Cohen Practice Freeway.”
That got shot down, too. But it was close.