If the Lakeville City Council and Dakota County have their way, County Road 50 will receive a major makeover in 2017, transitioning from a three-lane design to a four-lane divided roadway.

Earlier this month, the city of Lakeville adopted a Dakota County-led study on the County Road 50 corridor from County Road 60 to Dodd Boulevard that recommends expanding the road, with the caveat that more work be done to address the concerns of business owners on a stretch from Ipava Avenue to Icenic Trail.

The report also recommends moving forward with replacing the stoplight at the intersection of County Road 50 and County Road 60 with a multi-lane roundabout.

The city of Lakeville requested that Dakota County complete the study, which began about a year ago, for several reasons, said City Administrator Steve Mielke.

The first was to address doubts about whether the roundabout was a suitable option. Residents wondered whether there would be large enough gaps in traffic to turn onto the busy road without a stoplight a couple of miles to the north, Mielke said.

As construction of the roundabout — a project approved by the city and county in 2011 — was discussed, residents of the nearby Jaguar Avenue neighborhood and families and staff from Kenwood Trail Middle School brought up their own access issues with County Road 50, he said.

Thus, the county undertook an in-depth study of the corridor, said Brian Sorenson, an assistant county engineer and the study’s project manager.

“We really haven’t done a study exactly like this anywhere in the county,” he said. The study was novel because it attempted to model traffic patterns in different situations and in great detail using a roundabout, he added.

Four lanes in the future

Critics of the roundabout thought it might make it even harder to turn onto County Road 50, said Chris Petree, Lakeville’s public works director.

But the study found that the roundabout’s effect on the gaps would be “negligible,” Mielke said, and roundabout construction will start next year.

Instead, “What will make the changes in gaps is changing the design of the roadway,” Petree said.

The present road will reach its capacity in a couple of years, simply due to Lakeville’s growth, Mielke said. Expanding to four lanes would almost double its capacity.

Currently, it has three lanes, one going in either direction and a third in the middle for turning left from either lane. The new design would have two lanes going either direction with a center median.

In adopting the study, the City Council is confirming that County Road 50 should become a four-lane road, Mielke said. The project will take three years, with design work in 2015, land acquisition in 2016 and construction in 2017, he said.

The project is included in a draft of Lakeville’s capital improvements plan, and Dakota County also has it written into its 2017 plans, Petree said. The next step is for those plans to be approved, along with financing options, he said.

Another of the study’s recommendations is already underway.

During the roundabout discussion, residents of the Jaguar Avenue neighborhood on the southwest side of County Road 50 said it took too long to find a gap in traffic to turn onto County Road 50, especially when turning left. Because of the study, the city and county approved widening Jaguar Avenue to create a right turn lane. Crews are working on it now, and access will improve “almost immediately,” Petree said.

Business owners’ concerns

During the study, Sorenson met with business owners, including property owners along County Road 50 from Ipava Avenue to Icenic Trail. They expressed concern about how the project will affect them, he said.

The railroad owns the land on the southwest side, and likely won’t allow the county to have any of it. Therefore, all of the necessary land will have to come from businesses on the northeast side, said Petree.

Rose Harrison and her family own Lakeville Dental, one of five businesses along that stretch. She said the county told her they need about 18 feet of her land, including an outer row of parking spots that she added two years ago.

But those spaces are critical, she said. “This is really serious for the future of our business if our patients don’t have anywhere to park,” she said.

Patti McDonald, whose husband and daughter are both optometrists at McDonald Eye Care Associates, has another concern. She’s afraid that with the divided road, customers won’t be able to turn left into her business.

“If they can’t turn in here, that changes everything,” she said.

County representatives have told her “there’s a chance they can work something out,” she said, possibly creating a break in the median.

A four-lane divided road design can create access issues, because cars can only turn right, both onto and off the road, Petree said.

Mielke said he and the City Council are committed to working with businesses to find solutions.

“We’re still talking to businesses, talking options, and it’s still very early,” Petree said.