Hope for a hopeless world: Ayd Mill Road to get makeover

Photo: Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News file

Nothing symbolizes St. Paul’s rotting infrastructure like a quick ride down Ayd Mill Road, the semi-connector that crosses the city from the industrial midway to Interstate 35E.

Of course, it’s impossible to take a quick trip on Ayd Mill Road,  what with the sinkholes and potholes that require off-road vehicles to navigate.

So the Pioneer Press’ news today gives hope to a hopeless world: Ayd Mill Road is going to be resurfaced.

The city didn’t want to; it had plans to do it two years from now, but the complaints from people with a clue overwhelmed city officials.

“The ongoing efforts to regularly patch and maintain the road are expensive and are no longer sufficient or sustainable. We cannot wait until 2021 to undertake this project,” Public Works director Kathy Lantry said in a written statement, according to the newspaper.

She could say that about just about any road in the city, whose legendary potholes are being patched before becoming next spring’s legendary potholes when the temporary fix washes away again.

The city will use the mill-and-overlay method in which what’s left of the asphalt will be ground off and replaced by 2 inches of new asphalt. As someone in the PiPress’ comment section points out, it’s a less-temporary fix as the original road was concrete and asphalt over concrete doesn’t have a long life. But replacing concrete with concrete is a bridge too far for cash-strapped cities.

It’s a temporary ray of hope that things will get better, even if it’s a mirage. St. Paul doesn’t have much more than a Band-Aid plan to take care of more than 850 miles of roads in the city, a few of which — like Ayd Mill Road — serve commuters, perhaps, more than city people these days. City folks aren’t in any hurry to help people from the suburbs.

Ayd Mill Road is a metaphor for the entire transportation policy of Minnesota. For decades, it’s been a road in search of someone with a sustainable vision. With officials and residents unable to agree on one, it collapses under the weight of its own existence.

Related: The Eternal Return of Ayd Mill Road: an Illustrated Timeline (Twin Cities Sidewalks)