New dual left-turn lanes are in place on northbound Wooddale Avenue at Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, and some drivers love them. But others say they add more danger to an already confusing set of intersections.
Last month, the Hennepin County Transportation Department changed the configuration on northbound Wooddale to allow motorists to make left turns onto Excelsior from both lanes. Before, there was one lane for motorists turning left and one for those turning right.
Duane Glisan, who lives nearby, saw that traffic on northbound Wooddale often stacked up in the left lane but that few drivers were using the right lane to turn east onto Excelsior. He figured there was a better way to use the lightly used right lane and improve traffic flow. He took his idea to the city, which passed it on to the county. And the county agreed.
“I’m not a line guy,” Glisan admitted. “There are two lanes and a guy ought to be able to use that. It makes a whole lot of sense rather than having a block-[long] line of cars. Sitting 1,000 feet back is not my style.”
Even before Glisan contacted the city, county transportation planners had been considering the change, said Ken Levin, senior transportation engineer. A consultant had suggested the idea after traffic lights on the corridor had been retimed. The city, too, had been seeking a change because lines of cars during high traffic times block driveways leading to the Miracle Mile shopping center.
“Blocking of Miracle Mile has been a challenge,” said Debra Heiser, engineering director for the city of St. Louis Park. “If we can get twice as many left-turners through, we will get rid of the blocking.”
That was the whole reason for the change, Levin said. A study found that 75% of drivers using northbound Wooddale during rush hours made left turns at the intersection.
“We wanted to reduce the queue,” Levin said. “It was a good change to do.”
Not everybody is thrilled. Drive readers Dianna and Andy said the layout creates more opportunities for conflict and crashes in an area clogged with traffic, one that already has problems with motorists using the wrong lanes to turn.
Last spring, the Drive reported that motorists heading east on Excelsior and turning onto northbound Hwy. 100 were using the wrong left-turn lane. One left-turn lane is marked for drivers going onto Hwy. 100. The other lane is for drivers heading to Park Center Boulevard. Signs posted in the median tell motorists which lanes to use. But too often, drivers caught in the wrong lane cut off other motorists while making hasty lane changes.
Even though signs recently installed on Wooddale tell motorists headed for nearby Hwy. 100 which turn lane to use, Andy fears the same type of quick-lane changes will now happen after drivers turn from Wooddale to westbound Excelsior and have only a few hundred feet to make any adjustments and cross traffic.
“I’m not exactly a big fan of the change,” he said in an e-mail. “My biggest concern is that the intersection is already very busy design-wise; it’s going to turn adversarial very quickly.”
Drive reader Dianna, who lives just south of the intersection, didn’t see any problems with the old design.
“The light is long enough that you can get through,” she said. “Now those turning right get held up. It’s idiotic.”
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