Residents of an Oak Park Heights neighborhood who found themselves isolated when construction began on the St. Croix River bridge project might get a new road to replace one that was barricaded.
Earlier this month, they discovered the back end of Peabody Avenue — their usual exit — off limits when crews began work on restoration of a scenic overlook that is required as part of the $690 million two-state project. Peabody Avenue was barricaded because it exited the neighborhood to Lookout Trail at the entrance to the overlook and wasn’t a real street, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials said recently.
Under consideration now is a proposal to reopen a portion of the old Peabody exit but curve it to meet Lookout Trail farther south of the scenic overlook entrance. Residents, who have said that the single remaining entrance into their neighborhood is too narrow and steep, will meet with city officials May 29 to discuss the proposal.
“To us it looks great; it looks like it solves the issue. The only question is the grade,” resident Doug Van Dyke said Wednesday. The exit road as proposed would be as steep as the entrance road, he said, and that would need further discussion.
“The city and residents alike are very concerned about the problem of safe access to and from home(s) during winter, when reportedly the steeply sloped south end of Peabody is covered with ice and snow,” MnDOT compliance manager Mary Ann Heidemann wrote in a May 21 letter to other agencies. “Callers were also worried about the safety risks of a dead-end street, with no practical way to turn around emergency vehicles or trucks.”
A turnaround built recently on MnDOT land near the last house in the neighborhood, at the barricades, is suitable as a temporary measure, but “I don’t believe it fully resolves the problems presented to us by the neighbors and the city of Oak Park Heights,” wrote Heidemann, who described the Peabody extension as an unauthorized “rogue” street.
The City Council was expected to discuss the proposal Wednesday evening with MnDOT officials and, after next week’s meeting with neighbors, take some action, said City Administrator Eric Johnson.
The overlook, known as “Joint Point” to teenagers who party there, was built in 1938 as a “wayside rest” when the nearby two-lane Lookout Trail was the principal highway through Oak Park Heights and Stillwater.