St. Paul doubles estimated costs for street construction near Lowertown ballpark

Four streets rebuilt
Four downtown St. Paul streets are set to be reconstructed as part of the Lowertown ballpark project.
MPR News graphic / Ryan Companies context plan

Road construction around the site of the new St. Paul Saints baseball stadium is adding millions of dollars in additional costs related to the project.

The city now estimates that sewer and street construction surrounding CHS Field will cost as much as $7 million to complete — more than twice what it originally projected.

While technically separate from ballpark construction, the extensions of Prince Street and Lafayette Street will allow fans to access the stadium from the east.

The new streets and sidewalks are so critical to the ballpark's success that some city council members have argued they should have been included in the project's overall budget. The city's public works department countered that the plans for the streets predate the ballpark.

The ballpark itself will also cost more than the city originally projected. Last year, its budget swelled from $54 million to $63 million after contractors discovered the site was far more polluted than they realized.

Lowertown was once an industrial part of the city. It included a coal gasification plant and railroad buildings.

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When the area flooded this spring, the city decided it should bury a more robust storm sewer system under the new streets. That alone added more than $1 million to the price tag. Then crews discovered contaminated rubble that needed to be removed.

"This has obviously been a sobering experience," interim Public Works Director Nancy Homans said. "Obviously, this area is a bigger problem than we anticipated."

The new "worst-case scenario" budget also anticipates higher costs for acquiring the land under the new streets. While St. Paul already seized the property through eminent domain, an expert panel needs to determine how much the city should pay the previous owner of one parcel, Homans said.

The city council approved the new budget this week without debate.

"There was a certain amount of disappointment," Council Member Dan Bostrom said in a phone interview. "But the way so many things have gone with this [project], I guess it wasn't totally unexpected."

CHS Field is scheduled to open in the spring. Most of the street construction is already complete. The city will pay for the $3.7 million overrun using money from several public works-related funds.