Councilmember Mike Knight said the Crosstown Boulevard and Nightingale Street intersection is one of the worst in the city.
The Crosstown-Andover boulevards intersection is also difficult to navigate when students are arriving or leaving Andover High School, according to Councilmember Tony Howard.
With Nightingale Street from Crosstown to 161st Avenue slated for reconstruction next year, the Andover City Council recently authorized city staff to seek requests for proposal (RFPs) for a traffic engineer consultant who would analyze all possible solutions to improve traffic flow at both intersections, according to City Engineer and Public Works Director David Berkowitz.
The Andover YMCA/Community Center, Andover High School, Andover Elementary, Sunshine Park and numerous homes are significant traffic contributors along Crosstown Boulevard, which also has Andover City Hall and the public works building along it.
Oak View Middle School and those using 157th Avenue to head east instead of Andover Boulevard or 161st Avenue are other contributors to the traffic congestion on Crosstown Boulevard.
Knight said it is very difficult during the peak traffic periods on Crosstown to turn left from Nightingale.
“The problem is you end up with people playing chicken a lot,” Knight said.
Berkowitz said this intersection has not had a lot of accidents as far as he is aware, so this is a case of wanting to improve traffic flow and people’s comfort level.
The bypass lane on eastbound Crosstown at Nightingale added in the summer of 2007 by the city has improved the traffic flow, he said.
It is still difficult to turn left onto Crosstown from Nightingale during the peak morning and evening traffic periods, Berkowitz said.
According to Mayor Mike Gamache, he has seen roundabouts on city streets in Champlin and even on the higher speed four-lane Highway 8 east of Taylors Falls, Wis., when he was visiting family in those areas.
Gamache and others on the council are willing to consider the possibility of a roundabout at the Crosstown-Nightingale intersection.
“It’s an option to make an intersection in our city that is dangerous a safer place. I don’t know if it’s the answer,” said Howard.
The Andover-Crosstown intersection by the high school and nearby Hanson Boulevard intersections must also be addressed so the problems at Crosstown-Nightingale are not shoved to another area, he said.
Although this intersection is a major player in the Nightingale reconstruction discussion, there were other areas of the corridor that Berkowitz discussed with the council at its Sept. 25 workshop.
According to Berkowitz, there would be full accesses at 157th Lane and Veterans Memorial Boulevard. A dual left-turn lane, which is also called a center-turn lane, could be added throughout the corridor.
A trail on the east side of Nightingale between Crosstown and 157th Lane is also being looked into, Berkowitz said.
More than this one intersection
Howard said there would need to be improvements made at the Andover Boulevard intersection with Crosstown in order to make any work at the Nightingale intersection effective.
The Andover-Crosstown intersection by the high school has been a discussion point of the council for some time at various workshop meetings.
Anoka County owns these two roads, so the city has asked about possible improvements and traffic signal timing there.
At the June 27 council workshop, Berkowitz shared an email from Jane Rose of the Anoka County Highway Department that addressed various points raised by the city.
Rose said there are significant queues in the intersection between 7:25 and 7:40 a.m., so much that adjusting traffic signal timing would not help.
“The intersection, roadways and signal system are not designed to accommodate the amount of traffic trying to enter and exit there during the a.m. school start time,” Rose wrote in her email to the city.
Rose mentioned several possibilities to alleviate traffic congestion such as spreading out the time when students arrive, changing the school’s traffic flow plans so not all traffic has to go to Andover Boulevard and lengthening the right-turn lane on southbound Crosstown Boulevard at Andover Boulevard.
So many people are turning right from Crosstown to Andover boulevards that they get backed up into the southbound through lane and others get stuck waiting behind them.
Howard has seen people drive in the northbound Crosstown Boulevard lane to get around the stalled traffic, he said.
Berkowitz said the traffic engineer consultant will analyze all possible solutions and the city will sit down with District 11 officials to discuss ways that the high school could contribute to solving the traffic flow problems.
Berkowitz said the city requested updated traffic counts from Anoka County on the Crosstown-Nightingale, Crosstown-Andover and Crosstown-Hanson boulevards intersection.
Howard believes the traffic flow problems during the morning and afternoon school rush hours spill over to Hanson Boulevard, he said.
“You have to look at it as a whole,” Howard said. “You can’t just look at one little piece.”
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org