First came the chicanes, then rush hour restrictions at two key entrance points, but that was not enough to keep scores of commuters bypassing a nearby bridge closure on Hwy. 169 from cutting through Edina’s Parkwood Knolls neighborhood and clogging up its streets.
Now in an extreme measure, the city hopes installing a concrete barricade to block all incoming and outgoing traffic from using Dovre Drive on the upscale neighborhood’s south end will do the trick.
The City Council this week unanimously voted to install the barrier, which will go up Monday and remain up until construction on the Nine Mile Creek bridge is complete this fall.
“I think it’s an extreme measure to close Dovre Drive, but if that is what it takes to maintain some semblance of normalcy and peace for the next nine months, I don’t see that we have an option,” said City Council member Mary Brindle.
The move will solve the issue in Parkwood Knolls, said Edina traffic engineer Chad Millner, but it will likely shift traffic problems further east to neighborhoods along Blake Road or send even more rogue motorists west into Hopkins where that city has also been under siege with cut-through traffic.
Since the bridge reconstruction project began six weeks ago, traffic on 11th Avenue has increased exponentially — up to as many as 18,000 vehicles a day — and rush hour backups at the intersection with Smetana Road sometimes stretch for blocks.
In recent days, Hopkins has begun improving crosswalk markings along 11th Avenue in response to citizen complaints and deployed extra police during rush hours at the busy intersection to crack down on drivers speeding and rolling through stop signs. Police (on overtime being paid for by MnDOT) are at times prohibiting turns onto 11th Avenue when traffic stacks up, and they’re shooing trucks and non-local traffic over to Shady Oak Road to keep extra vehicles out of neighborhoods.
“We are trying to keep 11th Avenue flowing and turning back trucks if they are not supposed to be there, ” said Sgt. Mike Glassberg of the Hopkins Police Department. “There are a lot of frustrated residents having trouble pulling out onto 11th Avenue. Please follow the detours. It will help.”
In Hopkins, closing off entire streets like in Edina’s Parkwood Knolls is not as feasible because the area adjacent to Hwy. 169 features a mix of homes and businesses. But “we are constantly evaluating how to handle things,” Glassberg said.
Tension hit a fever pitch in Parkwood Knolls immediately after the Jan. 23 closure of Hwy. 169 between Lincoln Drive and Bren Road. Traffic jumped fivefold from 1,000 to 5,100 vehicles a day. On the quiet meandering streets that don’t have sidewalks, traffic jams formed, sometimes so thick that mothers with strollers were forced to play “Frogger” as they crossed streets. Aggressive drivers slalomed around bikers and walkers, residents said, sometimes ignoring stop signs and running school bus stop arms. That led the city to block off entrances for two hours each morning at Lincoln and Malibu drives and for two hours each afternoon at the south entrance on Dovre Drive. Police were stationed at the entrances to ensure compliance, and MnDOT paid the bill.
Traffic volumes subsequently dropped to 2,500, but “there is still too much traffic going through the neighborhood,” Mayor James Hovland said in support of the Dovre Drive closure. “Twenty five hundred is a clear safety issue. The next increment is the one to take.”
Residents had been pushing for full closures at the neighborhood’s north and south access points. While Dovre Drive will be blocked, full access at all times will be retained on the north end at Lincoln and Malibu drives. A new “No Outlet” sign will be posted on Malibu to go with a recently installed sign informing app-armed drivers looking for a short cut that they won’t have access to Hwy. 169.
“This has been and emotional and challenging issue,” said council member Kevin Staunton before voting for the closure. “There is no easy solution here.”
MnDOT’s David Aeikens disagreed. “Use the detours. We don’t want all that traffic into the neighborhoods,” he said.