Many Apple Valley residents were happy when the city recently opened a half-mile-long missing link that makes 147th Street an east-west thoroughfare that runs through a new business park.
But the lustre of the newly paved and striped road faded quickly for 10 motorists who were pulled over for exceeding the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit.
"Many of our members and customers have received tickets right away and feel the limits are unrealistically low," said city Chamber of Commerce President Ed Kearney in his online newsletter. He said he had received nearly a dozen complaints from members, and about half involved speeding tickets. Police records show 10 tickets were issued on the new strip in the month after it opened in late November.
Kearney shared his concerns with Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland, who sympathized. She said the city has asked for a traffic study by the state Department of Transportation, which must approve any speed limit change on major roads.
"We asked MnDOT to take a look at this," the mayor said last week. "There clearly will be some kind of adjustment. We'll wait for the study results."
Hamann-Roland noted the completed 147th Street will be a significant corridor with bus stops and access to businesses. It will relieve some pressure on busy County Road 42, a parallel artery a few blocks south.
Kearney noted that the speed limit on 147th Street is 30 mph when it passes the Apple Valley Chamber office at Galaxie Avenue, about half a mile west of the new segment. The speed limit rises to 35 where the new pavement begins at Flagstaff Avenue, as 147th Street runs east up the bluff to Johnny Cake Ridge Road. The new road offers panoramic views of the city looking west.
"The businesses are looking for uniformity," Kearney said. "We think the limit [on 147th Street] should be 40 from behind Menard's [west of Flagstaff] all the way to Johnny Cake Ridge."
The new stretch runs through the 50-acre Apple Valley Business Campus, which is undeveloped except for two office-warehouse buildings that developer Mark Hebert built and said he is starting to rent. His long narrow buildings sit atop the bluff, overlooking Eastview High School to the north.
The city expects the traffic study results in February, said Public Works Director Todd Blomstrom.
He said the city spent about two years and $3 million planning and building the new stretch of 147th Street. He noted the cost increased because Magellan jet fuel lines crossed the path of the new road and had to be lowered beneath it. He noted that another new piece on Flagstaff also opened in November. It runs north from 147th Street past Eastview High School to 140th Street.
Kearney thinks the tickets resulted from "an unrealistically low speed limit and too eager enforcement."
Capt. Mike Marben defended police enforcement efforts.
"We are simply enforcing the limits as they are established by the signage out there," Marben said. He noted that 10 citations were issued on the new stretch in the month after it opened in late November. He noted that nine tickets were issued in December on the old section of 147th Street going west from Flagstaff to Galaxie, and eight more on the same section in November, most before the new stretch opened.
Marben said police policy is not to issue tickets to drivers going a few miles an hour over the limit. "If you are going more than 10 miles over the limit you are going to get a ticket," Marben said. He noted city officials don't want speeds too high on the new road because that may attract too many drivers from nearby County Road 42, which is a major four-lane roadway equipped for a higher volume of traffic.
Marben said that as more companies and employee traffic arrive in the new business park, the speed limit might need to be lower to prevent accidents. However, if the MnDOT study supports raising the limit now, past practice shows the agency is reluctant to reverse course and lower the speed later.
"Then members of the chamber would probably get upset because they would want the speed reduced," Marben said. "It's a fine line we walk."
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283