The Drive: Readers ask how to turn left at light-rail crossings

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 22, 2013 - 7:35 PM
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The new LRT cars for the Central Corridor, which will be known as the Green Line when it is opened, were unveiled Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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For the past two years, motorists on University Avenue in St. Paul have been able to make left turns and cross the tracks of the new light-rail line that will run between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul without worrying about whether a train was coming.

That’s no longer the case, said Laura Baenen, communications manager for the Central Corridor LRT Project. Testing of what is being called the Green Line began in the fall near the University of Minnesota campus and is now spreading eastward and becoming more frequent.

The 11-mile line won’t officially be up and running until spring, but “anytime is train time,” Baenen said. “We don’t want anybody to get lulled into a false sense of security. People need to get used to seeing trains all the time.”

With the Green Line cutting down the middle of University Avenue and motorized traffic ­running parallel on either side of the tracks, questions about traffic flow and control along University have landed in the Drive’s mailbag. So did a question about new trail signs on Victory Memorial Drive.

Q: What is the proper way to make a left turn onto University from streets such as Hamline or Raymond avenues?

A: At intersections such as Raymond Avenue or other cross streets on University, Baenen said drivers coming from opposite directions and making left turns onto University must pass each other on the left side and then complete their turn after crossing the tracks. It is no different from how motorists make left turns onto streets such as Summit Avenue in St. Paul that have wide medians or a boulevard that runs down the center.

Q: Will Minneapolis or St. Paul be installing signs to help baffled left turners?

A: There are no plans to do so at this time, Baenan said. “Given the slow speeds at which drivers make left turns, they generally ­follow the correct path to make the turns. Signs are not used for this reason.”

The Metropolitan Council reminds motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to stay off the tracks, always look both ways when crossing them and to cross only at intersections and legal mid-block crossings. The agency has published safety tips in recent newsletters and created videos that play on YouTube to educate the public on how to act around trains.

Q: I noticed that there are new stop signs on the bike and walking path along Victory Memorial Drive. Why?

A: The small stop signs similar to those found on state snowmobile trails and on bike paths in the Three Rivers Park District system were installed in October because there was no traffic control for either vehicles or bicyclists at many points along the parkway. Victory Memorial Drive runs north and south to form the border between Robbinsdale and Minneapolis, then turns east and runs through north Minneapolis.

“There is a potential for a hazardous situation,” said Dawn Sommers, a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The 25 signs were put up at all intersections between Lowry and Humboldt avenues “to prevent accidents,” she said.

There have been a couple of near-misses, Sommers said. Park Board officials will evaluate their effectiveness and might put signs on other trails on the Grand Rounds system, the 50-mile loop that connects Minneapolis parks.

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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