For the most part, West Side resident Ella Riley likes the direction St. Paul's been going in, and she was quick to tell Mayor Chris Coleman that during a public meeting Wednesday.
"You got this place in order to me — new buildings coming up. I just look at things when I'm driving around," Riley said. "But there's just one thing, since I'm living close to Robert Street and have to drive down Robert Street...You know what that is? Bumps."
Coleman is well aware of those bumpy roads.
"It is a massive problem," he said. "We have streets that are 50, 60-plus years old. Now, I don't think 50 is that old, myself, but when you're talking roads I guess that's a different story."
Like many older cities around the state, St. Paul is having a hard time figuring out how to replace its crumbling streets. This spring, the streets were so chewed up that filling potholes wasn't enough.
Instead crews have been laying down asphalt by the truckload and spreading it curb to curb. It's a temporary fix intended to extend the pavement's life by three to seven years.
To pay for it, Coleman scraped together $2.5 million dollars from other areas of this year's Public Works budget — including $1 million from the street sweeping fund.
City Council President Kathy Lantry doesn't think it's wise to sharply reduce how often the city sweeps its streets.
"You go from six-to-eight times a year down to two, and I think on some of our larger arterials, you will start to notice," Lantry said. "And we will look different. I don't know what the correct level is. Maybe eight is too many, but I sure think two is too few."
Last month, Lantry and five other council members announced a proposal to borrow $22 million and put that money into completely reconstructing about 10 miles of streets over the next couple of years.
She acknowledges that one-time money wouldn't solve the whole problem, but said city leaders need to show the public they're taking a step in the right direction.
"I think it was sending a message to our constituents, who we have been hearing from loud and clear for months and months and months about the condition of our roads," Lantry said. "And I think all of us felt like we really needed to act, that we had a constituency, and they expected us to do something."
Coleman has criticized the council's proposal for failing to address the city's need to patch streets immediately. He promises the budget he'll unveil next month will include "a long-term plan for rebuilding streets with a sustainable funding source."
Finding that funding will be tough. The Public Works Department's budget proposal to Coleman makes it clear just how tough.
In an internal memo obtained by MPR News, the department recommends pouring an additional $6 million into the city's large commercial streets — far short of the $20 million it concludes is needed.
"While this number is large, it is a reality we must face," the memo said. "Our infrastructure is aging and we are not keeping up with the needs."
In addition to falling short of what's needed, the money would also come at the expense of other Public Works programs. The memo suggests reduced street sweeping again next year, plus cutting residential street rebuilding and bike safety programs.
Those trade-offs would come at a cost.
At Wednesday's public meeting, Darren Tobolt, a member of the city's Capital Improvement Budget Committee, urged Coleman not to sacrifice bike paths to fill potholes.
"When you, say, don't fix any bike paths, you can really only fix one road, but that takes the bike paths away from everyone in the city," he said.
Coleman agreed and said he considers bike safety an important priority.
The mayor's spokesman wouldn't speculate on which, if any, of the Public Works recommendations he would include in his budget proposal next month.
The problem of crumbling streets isn't unique to St. Paul. The useful life of a road is typically about 50 years, said Margaret Donahoe, executive director of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance.
The group will push for an increase in state transportation funding next year.
"The reality is over half of our roadways now in Minnesota are over 50 years old," Donahue said. "And so they need to be reconstructed, not just patched. It is, of course, more expensive. And so it's difficult, especially for local governments to find the funding for actual reconstruction of roads."