The stretch of state highway is under scrutiny after a 12-year-old-girl was hit and killed there.
Five weeks after a 12-year-old girl was struck by a car and killed as she walked her bike across Hwy. 101 in Chanhassen, city and state officials are moving forward with improvements along the two-lane roadway.
Chanhassen, Eden Prairie and Minnesota Department of Transportation officials met last week to discuss possible short-term and long-term changes to the 1.5 mile stretch of state road between Hwy. 5 and County Road 62. That stretch of Hwy. 101 has no stop signs, crosswalks or traffic lights. It forms the border between Chanhassen and Eden Prairie, and is lined by residential neighborhoods on both sides.
The most immediate change resulting from the tragedy will be the addition of a pedestrian flasher system at the Pleasant View Road intersection with Hwy. 101.
MnDOT south area manager Lynn Clarkowski said that intersection is the busiest along the roadway, and that the state and the two cities have been working for the past two years on plans to add turn lanes and better pedestrian and bike trail connections there.
After the accident, she said, the cities wanted a flashing beacon as an extra layer of safety.
"A pedestrian will be able to walk up and push a button that would activate a blinking amber light above the roadway and on the side of the roadway so that drivers would be alerted," said Robert Ellis, public works director in Eden Prairie.
The Pleasant View Road project with the flasher system is in its final review, and construction is expected to begin in late summer or fall, said Paul Oehme, Chanhassen public works director.
The fatality occurred at the Sandy Hook Road intersection south of Pleasant View. A southbound vehicle struck Aimee Marie Trudeau on May 30 as she was trying to cross the highway. Oehme asked MnDOT to do speed tests along the road to determine whether the 45 mile per hour speed limit needs to be ratcheted down. Clarkowski said the study is still underway, and won't be finished until late July.
Ellis said that MnDOT also analyzed three years' worth of prior accidents along the corridor, and found a lower than average accident rate, compared to similar roadways.
MnDOT is also likely to trim excess vegetation along the highway in the near future.
"We're assessing where there might be intersection sight corners that need trimming, or branches obstructing signage, or areas along the shoulders that need trimming," Clarkowski said.
After the trimming, Ellis said that Eden Prairie will evaluate whether there's anything else that might be blocking views. "We're going to take another look at the side streets to see if there are some electric poles, mailboxes or street signs that could be obstructing drivers' views," he said, "and if so we'll work with homeowners to try and get those moved to a better location."
Ellis said that Eden Prairie will also count traffic at the Valley View Road intersection with Hwy. 101, further to the south, to see if it justifies an all-way stop.
Oehme said one of the problems is that Chanhassen has a recreational trail system along the road's western side, but Eden Prairie has a narrow right-of-way and no sidewalk or trail system on the eastern side.
"That's problematic," Oehme said. "To have a safe and responsible pedestrian crossing you need infrastructure on both sides of the roadway," he said, not just a road shoulder.
How to resolve that is one of the long-range questions that officials will be considering. Ellis said another is whether to reconstruct Hwy. 101 in a way that incorporates more turn lanes or even as a three-lane road. He said it would take at least a year to determine whether those changes might be part of future capital improvement programs.
Ellis said there doesn't seem to be any reason to widen the road to a four-lane highway. It carried about 15,000 vehicles a day in 1999, he said, and that has dropped to about 10,000 vehicles per day in 2011, largely due to more traffic using recently-constructed Hwy. 212.
Tom Meersman 612-673-7388