Cutting between Savage and Prior Lake, Hwy. 13 narrows to two fast-moving lanes. Turns come and go quickly, demanding split-second decisions. At peak hours, traffic from nearby schools piles up, sometimes trapping residents in adjacent neighborhoods.
"You can witness a handful of 'almost-accidents' taking place every single day," said Joyce Bone, 54, who's lived in Savage with her family for more than a decade.
In recent years, she said, the presence of multiple schools and new housing developments along the corridor has made traffic continually worse. Between 1996 and 2012, the number of vehicles passing through on an average day jumped nearly 25 percent, according to SEH Inc., the engineering firm working on the project.
In Bone's neighborhood, that buildup has meant waiting up to half an hour at a single stop sign. "There's just a lot of traffic all of the time in a very small, concentrated area," she said.
Leaders in both cities agree that something has to be done to ease congestion and improve safety. What they don't agree on is how to do it. Savage's City Council favors one solution, Prior Lake's another — and Prior Lake's answer could cause heartburn on the Savage side.
Now the two face a deadline: The state has offered $2.1 million but wants a final decision next week.
In an unusual move, the two councils met jointly this week to discuss their options. About two dozen community members attended, including some whose homes could be razed depending on which option is chosen.
The Prior Lake council favors the more expensive option: adding traffic signals at 150th Street.
But that would demolish multiple homes and require an easement from a nearby church — all on the Savage side.
Prior Lake officials say it's the solution that will best serve the area in the long-term.
Mayor Ken Hedberg said a big factor in the council's preliminary decision was the size of the neighborhoods near 150th. A lot of households use that road to access Hwy. 13.
The Savage council favors signals instead on Hwy. 13's intersection with Zinran Avenue, down the road. Though it's about $1 million less expensive than signals at 150th, it also has drawbacks. It would encroach on a commercial property on the Savage side of Hwy. 13, and it's more skewed than the 150th Street intersection.
The Prior Lake City Council is set to make a decision Monday.
"Basically, the Prior Lake City Council must agree to the Zinran [option] or basically the project is not going to move forward," said Larry Poppler, Prior Lake city engineer and inspections director.
Elected leaders and staff in both cities have said they expect a compromise — especially because the state has made it clear that if a decision isn't reached soon, funding will go elsewhere.
"The fact that [the state] is contributing $2 million to the project — no one wants to walk away from that," said Savage City Administrator Barry Stock.
Project manager Mike Kotila of SEH Inc. said though the two options each best serve the neighborhoods nearest to them, they both ultimately make a tough road easier to navigate.
That's what matters to residents such as Bone, who has worried not only while traveling the corridor herself, but also as her two young sons have learned to drive there.
"[City leaders] know there's a problem," she said. "I just hope they come up with the best long-term decision and not a Band-Aid."