Maryland Avenue will permanently be three lanes


file photo • Ramsey County traffic engineers have decided to make permanent the three-lane configuration on Maryland Avenue between Johnson Parkway and Payne Avenue. A mill and overlay of the arterial street will be completed in May.

Marjorie Otto

news editor

 

Traffic engineers from Ramsey County have decided to keep the three-lane configuration on Maryland Avenue between Johnson Parkway and Payne Avenue. 

The lanes will be made permanent in May following a mill and overlay of the east-west arterial street.

This follows nearly 10 months of trials and testing to see if three lanes could stick the landing and make Maryland Avenue safer than it was with four lanes, two in each direction.

 

The first round

The county began the first round of testing in July 2017. The road was restriped from four lanes down to three lanes, with one eastbound, one westbound and one center turn lane. 

Medians were added at Greenbrier and Duluth streets to prevent left turns and provide safer pedestrian crossings. 

After an initial six-week testing period, the county met with neighbors last fall and announced it would postpone a planned mill and overlay to allow for an additional testing period. 

Because Wheelock Parkway was closed for construction during the summer, the county wanted to collect traffic counts after it was open for more accurate numbers and to see if congestion would ease up, mainly at the intersection with Arcade Street. 

Project engineer Erin Laberee said that congestion at the Arcade intersection did ease up following the re-opening of Wheelock, but that there is still congestion, mainly caused by drivers who need to turn left during the evening rush hour traffic. 

 

Overall more safe 

“This was a safety project,” said Laberee, explaining that any decision on the lanes would be based off increasing safety along the street. 

She said overall there were fewer crashes resulting in injury and speeds slightly decreased along the stretch. 

Laberee added that the overall concept of three, rather than four lanes, is inherently safer for pedestrians. It’s fewer lanes to cross and eliminates the possibility of one vehicle stopping while a vehicle in the parallel lane doesn’t, resulting in a dangerous situation for a pedestrian, she said.

That exact situation took the life of Erin Durham in 2016 as she crossed the Greenbrier Street intersection after dropping her child off at the bus stop. 

Her death shook the neighborhood, leading to discussions between community members and traffic engineers to fix the problem. 

 

Moving forward

Laberee said ultimately the county’s studies showed safety benefits both for pedestrians and vehicles, which is why it decided to move forward and keep the three lanes and two medians permanent. 

During last fall’s community meeting, most neighbors said they felt the road was safer, especially when trying to cross it as a pedestrian. 

However, neighbors who live on side streets said they did notice an increase in traffic on their streets due to people avoiding rush hour back-ups. 

Most complaints were about driver behavior and the need for increased police patrols and enforcement.

The county will host an open house about the project on Thursday, April 26, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Farnsworth Lower Campus, 1290 Arcade St., to update residents about the decision. 

Laberee said as long as the weather cooperates, the resurfacing project should be complete within the month of May. She said the concrete medians at Greenbrier and Duluth will be constructed first, then the county will do the mill and overlay from Payne Avenue to Johnson Parkway and finish up by painting new lane lines. 

 

CLICK FOR LARGER: PROJECT LIMITS MAP


 

– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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