The Minnesota Department of Transportation did a study on the north end of Hwy. 316 in Hastings and determined the heavily traveled two-lane road could accommodate a higher speed limit.

Residents in the area said: Not so fast.

A revamped Hwy. 316 — also known as Red Wing Boulevard — officially opened last week after a summer-long $5.9 million construction project. MnDOT put down new pavement and a concrete median with a curb to separate traffic lanes and added mini roundabouts at three intersections between the north junction of Hwy. 61 and Michael Avenue.

MnDOT had simply planned to replace aging pavement, but the project garnered lots of attention after a 2015 study found many motorists drove 5 to 10 mph over the speed limit, and 15% of drivers went faster than that. The posted speed limit is 35 mph in a commercial district from Hwy. 61 to Malcolm Avenue and 45 mph in a more residential area from Malcolm Avenue to Michael Avenue. Speed limits were proposed to rise by 5 mph.

But the community had concerns about access, high crash numbers, high speeds and a lack of facilities for biking and walking, said Ryan Stempski, Hastings city engineer and director of Public Works. MnDOT collaborated with the city and used residents' feedback to devise the new configuration, Stempski said.

"MnDOT really partnered with us," Stempski said. "They implemented drastic changes."

Those included the center median to restrict left turns, which will help traffic flow and improve safety on the highway that carries about 14,000 vehicles a day. Before the median, drivers made "risky movements" trying to get on the highway or make left turns. The result was an abundance of crashes, Stempski said.

The most noticeable change are roundabouts at Spiral Boulevard, Tiffany Drive and Tuttle Drive. The circular intersections are more compact than most, too. MnDOT built them without having to take land from adjacent property owners. To make them fit, the center islands are smaller and have a flat concrete lip to ensure trucks have enough room to make the movement, said Kirsten Klein, a MnDOT spokeswoman.

Travel lanes along the corridor have the standard 10- to 12-foot width, but the new layout "makes them feel more narrow," Klein said.

None of the three intersections met criteria for a traffic light, but the roundabouts will help calm traffic. They will provide gaps between vehicles to improve access. And "you can't gain speed because then you hit another roundabout," Stempski said.

The project, five years in the making, was worth the wait, Stempski said. Now comes the effort to educate drivers. Hastings didn't have a roundabout until the new ones on Hwy. 316 went in. E-mail blasts and other communications will go out to explain rules of the roundabout and how to navigate them.

"As for the city, this is a big change," he said.