Robert Street underpass

Robert Street Underpass: One Year After Opening

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A major pedestrian and bicycle upgrade came to West St. Paul last year with the opening of the Robert Street underpass. Creating a safer crossing along the River-to-River Greenway trail, a regional path that runs through West St. Paul, this new tunnel attracted lots of questions. So one year on, let’s look at how it’s going.

What’s the problem? During the planning stages, many people raised a number of potential issues, including crime and usage.

Minimal crime: The West St. Paul Police Department reported only two incidents in the tunnel: The first was a fire started in the tunnel during construction, before it even opened; and the second was a case of graffiti last fall and the offender was caught and charged. Dakota County takes care of cleaning up graffiti, and they reported cleaning up graffiti just four times since the tunnel opened.

  • Police Chief Brian Sturgeon: “I have no concerns regarding safety or crime issues at the tunnel at this time and I have no evidence to support a change in that viewpoint.”
  • The underpass is equipped with lights and cameras to maintain safety and discourage negative behavior.

Is it being used? The underpass opened in the fall of 2021, so it’s still early for new data. However, the 2021 count estimate for the entire River-to-River Greenway (not just the underpass) was 310,658, saw a 14% increase from 2019 (use counts were not completed in 2020 due to the pandemic).

What’s next? Finished during the pandemic in the midst of supply chain shortages and nearby construction, not everything has been completed.

  • Signage: A sign across the top of the underpass, as well as signage along the entire trail, is in the works and will be installed in spring or summer of 2023.
  • Landscaping: Correcting soil stability issues has delayed landscaping, but Dakota County has a planting plan for 2023 to better establish native vegetation.
  • Connections: Sidewalk connections along Crawford Drive were part of the aborted Hy-Vee plans. Redevelopment plans include extensive pedestrian connections, so it’s certain those connections will eventually be added.
  • Mural?: Dakota County is exploring murals in tunnels with a pilot project in the Charlton Street underpass that’s underway now. If that’s successful, the Robert Street tunnel has been listed as a potential next project.

Explore trails: See Dakota County’s River-to-River Greenway Trail map or the West St. Paul Rider map to find local trails.

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