July 17, 2008
Downtown St. Paul Losing 4,000 Parking Spots During GOP Convention
By Jason Hoppin, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Jul. 17--Downtown St. Paul will lose about 4,000 parking spaces during the 2008 Republican National Convention, city officials said Tuesday.The move will force thousands of commuters to look elsewhere for parking, with many expected to take shuttles from other locations during the week of the convention. And at least two popular surface lots will be closed beginning this weekend and won't reopen until after John McCain is nominated as the Republican Party's 2008 presidential candidate.
The closures affect 15 ramps and lots immediately surrounding the Xcel Energy Center, the venue for the Sept. 1-4 event. Two lots -- one directly across Kellogg Street from the Xcel and another south of Exchange Street and Eagle Parkway -- will close this Sunday.
"At this point, there could be more closed in that vicinity. Right now, we want to get the information out about the ones that we do know," said Natalie Fedie, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Planning and Economic Development.
"We do believe there is going to be enough parking outside of that area for everyone."
All the affected lots are within a zone bounded roughly by Shepard Road, Chestnut Street, Interstate 35E and St. Peter Street that is likely to be subject to traffic restrictions during the convention.
A traffic plan for that zone won't be announced until early to mid-August. Much of downtown St. Paul will be open during the convention without traffic restrictions.
downtown ramps also will remain open, including those affiliated with St. Joseph's Hospital, despite its proximity to the Xcel Energy Center. A representative of Victory Parking, which operates Victory Ramp, Lawson Ramp and Lowertown Ramp, recently said all three structures are expected to remain open as well.
But a United Hospital employee lot near the venue will be closed to the public. Hospital spokeswoman Terri Dresen said alternative arrangements are being made.
"We're getting some lots behind the Capitol, and we'll have a shuttle service," Dresen said.
Dresen stressed United's four ramps will remain open, with security guards present during the convention to make sure the ramps are being used by those with hospital business.
The Minneapolis Saint Paul 2008 Host Committee is paying the city and private owners nearly $500,000 for use of the lots and affiliated costs, such as shuttle services. Spokeswoman Teresa McFarland said the space would be used by the media and for storage, while some will be off-limits for security purposes.
Most of the closures will last from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5. They affect about 2,000 contract parking customers and another 2,000 commuters who use the lots on a day-to-day basis.
The city also released a shuttle plan for those displaced by the closures.
Contract parkers should have been notified of the changes. The city will shuttle them into downtown St. Paul from at least six locations: two city-owned lots near East Seventh and Robert streets; two Lowertown lots and two lots on St. Paul's West Side.
Displaced commuters who don't have monthly contracts are expected to make their own parking arrangements.
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Copyright (c) 2008, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
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