The segment of Hwy. 252 that runs through Brooklyn Center is rife with problems. The road is congestion-choked during rush hours and prone to crashes at all hours.
City leaders say they have a plan to mitigate those problems.
“The future and ultimate vision of this corridor, at least on the Brooklyn Center end, is to convert it to a freeway.” said Steve Lillehaug, project manager and Brooklyn Center’s public works director. “Based off traffic [volumes], congestion, accidents and safety, it needs to be a freeway.”
This is not a new idea. Taking out traffic lights and putting in interchanges to help traffic flow first popped up a couple of years ago. But a lack of funding and the fact that the Metropolitan Council dropped it from its comprehensive improvement plan, as did the Minnesota Department of Transportation, left Brooklyn Center’s dream in neutral.
Talks are heating up again with the release of six design plans, of which four emerged as leading possibilities. The city even held three open houses last week to show them off and is collecting input through a questionnaire residents can fill out and return by Monday.
The north-south Hwy. 252 runs from Interstate 694 up to Hwy. 610 in neighboring Brooklyn Park. It has six lanes in places and drops to four in others, along with a number of intersections controlled by traffic lights. That creates bottlenecks and three at-grade signalized crossings that show up on the list of the state’s top 20 intersections with the highest cost-related crashes.
Costs, as MnDOT’s West Metro Engineer John Griffith explained, take into account property damage, injuries and even deaths, of which there have been a few.
‘Too many fatalities’
Among them is 66th Avenue, a scant three-tenths of a mile north of I-694. The intersection that sees upward of 70,000 vehicles a day has 1.63 crashes per 1 million vehicles that pass through. That’s three times the state average. Two-thirds of crashes there are rear-enders, likely caused by motorists coming off I-94 or I-694 at high speeds and weaving across lanes to make turns before having to jump on the brakes for red lights.
“Tragically we’ve had too many fatalities out here,” Lillihaug said. “That is the reason we are talking about this.”
Griffith said MnDOT is keen to the cause, but the agency does not have the money to address the needs that it recognizes are there, Griffith said. So it’s up to Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park and Hennepin County to drive any improvement plan forward, he said.
As Brooklyn Center moves ahead, following a model that St. Louis Park used to get Wooddale Avenue at Hwy. 7 remade, residents in the quiet neighborhoods that abut the Mississippi River east of Hwy. 252 have ideas of their own. Just put big flashers that warn motorists when the traffic light is about to change and add pedestrian overpasses, says opponent Steve Cooper. He said none of the plans remove the weaving factor, and all of them will bring more traffic and noise to the neighborhood, and would result in the loss of bus service.
“We are concerned that we already have one of the most dangerous roads in the state being made more dangerous at a cost of $25 to $100 million,” he said. “I don’t see any good reason for these plans.”