Coon Rapids residents present petition for traffic signal

Coon Rapids residents living in the area of the Round Lake Boulevard and Wedegwood Drive intersection want traffic signals installed there.

They presented a petition calling for the traffic signals to the Coon Rapids City Council March 18 when the council had a public and assessment hearing on a project to reconstruct 1.2 miles of Round Lake Boulevard from 115th Avenue to some 450 feet south of Main Street.

A traffic signal is not part of the road reconstruction project, but residents want it to be. Presently, there are only are stop signs at the intersection for motorists on Wedgewood Drive.

According to the petition and a handful of residents who spoke at the hearing, the intersection is very dangerous, especially for traffic making left turns from Wedgewood Drive on to Round Lake Boulevard and motorists turning left from Round Lake Boulevard on to Wedgewood Drive because of the speed of traffic coming south from the bridge over the railroad tracks and those driving north round a curve on Round Lake Boulevard just before the intersection.

In addition, there are a lot of walkers in the area, especially in the spring, summer and fall, and visual obstructions at the intersection, for example a lilac bush and large utility boxes, residents told the council.

If a traffic signal was not feasible, then residents said they would accept a four-way stop sign at the intersection.

But Tim Himmer, city public works director, said neither a traffic signal nor a four-way stop sign met Minnesota Department of Transportation warrants because traffic volume was not high enough, for one thing.

According to Himmer, staff received the petition after a neighborhood meeting Feb. 11 on the project and retained SEH, Inc., a consulting engineering firm, to do traffic counts, study the warrants and prepare a traffic analysis for signal justification.

The city could still install the signal without warrants being met, but it would have to foot the bill itself, some $300,000, Himmer said.

By waiting until the intersection met warrants, the city would be able to use state aid street dollars, which come to the city through its annual allocation of state gas tax revenues, to pay the cost, he said.

“Staff understands that this is not the first request from area residents for such a signal at this intersection and believes it is only a matter of time before warrants are fully met,” Himmer wrote in his report to the council.

Indeed, the Round Lake Boulevard reconstruction project would include construction of a southbound right-turn lane and the necessary underground wiring for traffic signal installation once warrants are met, he said.

Alan Williams, who is not a resident of the area, suggested a roundabout at the intersection as a way of slowing traffic. “It would be way cheaper,” he said.

But Ken Kawlewski, the city’s acting city engineer from the consulting firm of WSB & Associates, said a roundabout would require a lot of space and result in high right-of-way costs.

Councilmember Steve Wells called the intersection “a unique situation” and a problem for many years.

He asked staff to look at ways for the project to be financed without waiting for warrants to be met.

With two of the seven councilmembers absent from the meeting, there was not the necessary super majority (six affirmative votes) to order the road reconstruction project March 18. There were no objections to the project raised at the public and assessment hearing.

In the meantime, Himmer said staff would look at possible traffic signal funding options for council consideration when the Round Lake Boulevard project is back on the council agenda for approval April 1.

State aid money is the city’s main source of funding for the Round Lake Boulevard reconstruction project – $1.92 million out of a total cost estimate of $2.6 million. Assessments are projected to cover $129,942.05 of the project cost.