For Edina residents who live on W. 70th Street between France Avenue and Hwy. 100, the road might as well be a raceway. It's nearly impossible to back out of their driveways during busy parts of the day, let alone walk with children across the street to parks or to Cornelia Elementary School.
Though the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, many drivers who take 70th because it is an easy route to Southdale shopping center and the Galleria drive 40 or even 45 mph, residents say.
A city advisory committee and a consultant have studied the issue for a year. This week, residents got their first look at ideas to calm traffic, including adding roundabouts and traffic signals.
While some residents say almost anything to slow traffic would be welcome, others are not so easily placated.
Joshua Sprague, chairman of the Greater West 70th Street Homeowners Association, was not happy with what he saw. His group of about 160 people wants the street turned into a people-friendly parkway, with a speed limit of 25 mph, bike lanes and plenty of crosswalks.
"It was a joke," he said of the committee's ideas. "They bastardized our concept. They are fixated on this idea of roundabouts. ... They are not listening to us."
Les Wanninger, chairman of the Edina Transportation Commission and leader of the study group, said the goal of this week's meeting was to present ideas and make clear the pros and cons of different methods to make the street safer. Actual proposals probably won't be made until February, he said.
"We're a long way from decisions on this," he said. "We called these 'concepts' on purpose."
The problem with 70th is that the street existed long before big developments like the shopping centers to the east were built. Much of 70th between France and Hwy. 100 is residential, with driveways feeding directly into the road. Cornelia Elementary and an adjacent park flank 70th, as does Arneson Acres Park. In a neighborhood of curving roads and cul-de-sacs, 70th offers an arrow-straight route from Hwy. 100 to the Galleria and Southdale. The only traffic signal is at Cornelia Drive.
Sprague said he bought his house because of its proximity to the parks. The traffic was a shock.
"When I realized the difficulty of getting my son across the street to the park, I thought this is ridiculous," he said. He said the traffic is a barrier between the north and south halves of the neighborhood, with people detouring to avoid making a left turn onto 70th.
Redesign alternatives for the street included creating:
"Arneson Parkway," a two-lane road with roundabouts added at the intersections with West Shore Drive and Cornelia Drive. A center median would bar left turns except at the roundabouts.
A three-lane road with an added traffic signal at West Shore Drive.
A two-lane road with an added traffic signal at West Shore Drive.
A two-lane road with a roundabout at West Shore Drive.
Ron Rich, an engineer who lives two houses from 70th, said any reduction in traffic would be appealing. But he questioned whether roundabouts would help with getting onto 70th at the busiest times of the day.
"They look good and they slow traffic, but ... do we have access to 70th Street during rush hour? How do we get in?" he asked.
Wanninger said there will be trade-offs no matter what is done with the street. Construction of roundabouts probably would mean cutting into rights of way that are now part of someone's front yard. With a median, there might not be room for bikeways. On-street parking also could eliminate bikeways. And fire engines need space to pull over in an emergency.
Wanninger said he hopes the issue is solved by next summer.
More than 20 years ago, according to Rich, the city took a run at trying to fix 70th, but that effort faded in the face of resident opposition. Since then, Wanninger said, "traffic is pretty much the same, but drivers' behavior is worse" due to speeding.
"I give it a D for traffic now. I hope we get it to the low B range."
Mary Jane Smetanka 612-673-7380