We’re not sure if it will get three cheers or three jeers, but one thing is certain: Drivers will get only three lanes on the segment of Maryland Avenue that runs through St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood.
The Ramsey County Public Works Department has settled on the alignment for the east-west thoroughfare that carries 21,000 to 23,000 vehicles a day. Maryland will permanently have one travel lane in each direction with a center left-turn lane between Payne Avenue and Johnson Parkway.
Officials will spell out the details about the layout and the effects of this summer’s resurfacing during a neighborhood meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 26 at Farnsworth Lower Campus, 1290 Arcade St.
Maryland Avenue became a laboratory last spring when the road with two traffic lanes in each direction was changed. Public Works officials wanted to see what effect the 4-to-3 lane conversion would have on traffic flow — both speed and volume — and pedestrian safety. The county put in medians at Greenbrier and Duluth streets so motorists there could not make left turns from Maryland Avenue.
The plan was to collect data for a few months, then decide either to reconfigure the road or leave it alone.
Data was a bit skewed because nearby Wheelock Parkway was shut down for construction last summer and Maryland absorbed an extra 1,000 vehicles a day. To get a true reading, the test went through the winter, said project manager Erin Laberee.
As traffic volume on Maryland returned to pre-Wheelock construction levels, data showed that drivers on Maryland moved slower (that is, closer to the speed limit), the effect on side streets was minimal, and one huge benefit was seen: a reduction in injury crashes. The county modified one pinch point by adding back a second westbound through lane at Arcade to relieve congestion during evening rush hours.
Plowing was easier, too, Laberee said. In the past, plows came by and a 10-foot wide lane next to the curb easily shrank to 8 or 9 feet, which makes it hard for drivers to stay in their lane. With only one traffic lane to clear, there was more room for vehicles to pass unimpeded by the snow that piled up. That’s another reason the county decided to go with the new plan, Laberee said.
Neighbors were divided over the issue and probably still are, Laberee said. But overall results show that the test seemed to work well for both drivers and pedestrians, so the county decided to make it permanent. “We’re thrilled to have turned a busy road that felt unsafe into a road that functions well for traffic,” she said.
There was talk about extending the three-lane configuration west of Payne Avenue closer to I-35E. That idea got nixed. Traffic volumes are too high there, Laberee said.
Why grooves on Hwy. 169?
What’s the purpose of the grooves on the new section of Hwy. 169 just north of Crosstown? “Water collects in them and freezes overnight. It looks like a skating rink in the morning and I always slow down in that stretch, because it appears icy,” reader Mark said in an e-mail.
It’s called diamond grinding, said David Aeikens, a MnDOT spokesman. That’s done to increase tire traction on concrete surfaces and reduce noise for nearby residents. Dirt and ice can collect in them, but MnDOT can remove it during its normal snow and ice removal process.