Hwy. 10 in Ramsey, the site of two traffic deaths this weekend, needs new overpasses to protect pedestrians from what has become a freeway in all but name, Mayor Bob Ramsey said Monday.
Ramsey said that plans have been in the works for a decade to separate Hwy. 10 from street traffic and put interchanges at Armstrong, Ramsey and Sunfish Lake Boulevards.
But he said that state and regional officials have put the project on indefinite hold, likely because of its estimated cost: $300 million to $350 million.
"It's always been an issue. Highway 10 is dangerous. I don't know how MnDOT [the Minnesota Department of Transportation] can say it's not," Ramsey said.
"It frustrates me that the state Legislature can spend $380 million on a Vikings stadium for 10 games a year and they're ignoring things like our issue."
John Peter Nettelfield, 78, and Jean Nettelfield, 71, both of San Antonio, were killed shortly after 9:30 p.m. Saturday when they were struck by a vehicle heading east on Hwy. 10 at Sunfish Lake Boulevard. One of the victims also was struck by a second vehicle.
The State Patrol said alcohol was not a factor for either the victims or the drivers, who have cooperated with the investigation.
The Nettelfields, who were returning to the Comfort Suites hotel after dinner at Willy McCoys, were in the crosswalk but crossing against a red light, officials said.
Two other people have died on the same stretch of road this year. Last month a woman was struck and killed by a car, although officials said it appeared to be a suicide. In May, a driver ran a stop sign and was killed after his car was struck by a vehicle heading west on Hwy. 10.
The city has been preparing for years to turn Hwy. 10 into a freeway by purchasing nearby properties with dollars from the state's revolving acquisition loan fund, Ramsey said. So far, the city has bought 17 properties to provide the land needed to improve the highway.
Three years ago, state and city officials selected designs for two new Hwy. 10 interchanges. City officials said then that rush-hour congestion and crashes were rising, and that the Sunfish Lake intersection was in the top 1 percent of similar metro area intersections for the cost of traffic accidents. A state survey found that the intersection averaged 60 crashes a year at a cost of about $522,500.
Ramsey said that 47,000 motorists travel that stretch daily and that traffic will only get worse as more people move to Ramsey and the city's Northstar commuter line station opens in November.
The speed limit on Hwy. 10 through Ramsey is 60 to 65 miles per hour. Ramsey said he wondered if the Nettelfields had enough time to cross the four-lane highway. Officials told him the crosswalk light was timed at 30 seconds, he said, and they may have started crossing when the light was green.
The couple had crossed the westbound lanes and were crossing the eastbound lanes when they were struck by the vehicles.
Ramsey, who is running for re-election, was pounding yard signs Saturday and had stopped at McCoys at about 8:30 p.m. to eat. He said he noticed lights and activity on Hwy. 10 but wasn't fully aware that something had happened until he went to check.
"I walked outside and the whole intersection was lit up," he said.
The San Antonio Express-News reported that the Nettelfields, said to have been visiting relatives in Canada, traveled frequently. John Peter Nettelfield, a Canadian native, was an investment banker and real estate developer. Jean Nettelfield had taught at St. Philip's College in San Antonio.
Kevin Duchschere 612-673-4455