One of Washington County's worst intersections is headed for reconstruction, but solutions won't come easy because of safety concerns at a nearby school.
The dangerous 10th Street-Manning Avenue crossing has generated a stream of complaints because more than a dozen lanes of traffic converge at a four-way stop.
Navigating the intersection is memorable for drivers who try to cross a wide expanse of pavement without being broad-sided by oncoming vehicles.
"If you've driven this intersection there's some real confusion about who goes first," said Frank Ticknor, a county traffic engineer who is managing the improvement project.
The county is involved because both major thoroughfares are county roads — 10th Street is County Road 10, and Manning Avenue is County Road 15. Thousands of job commuters use both routes, which slice through Lake Elmo and West Lakeland Township.
The $2 million undertaking would install traffic signals, pedestrian crossings and new pavement and would end in November. It's part of a larger $35 million plan to improve a five-mile stretch of Manning north from Interstate 94.
Also under study is a new entrance to Oak-Land Junior High School from 10th Street, eliminating one of two existing entrances on Manning. That stretch of highway now has an average daily traffic county of 13,600 vehicles.
The county acknowledged that traffic patterns will change when the current four-way stop is eliminated, and that's what concerns school officials: on green lights, only a school zone would discourage drivers from clipping past Oak-Land at 55 mph.
"Anytime you have proposed changes where you have the potential to increase speed where our parents are pulling into our building, or our buses are pulling in, it's going to be a priority for us to make sure those times of dropoff and pickup are as safe as we can make them," Andy Fields, the school's principal, said last week.
Oak-Land was built in 1967 when traffic on Manning was a trickle by comparison. Later, housing sprang up in Lake Elmo and West Lakeland Township, and the school now has 820 students in grades 7-9.
Students are discouraged from trying to walk across Manning Avenue to reach the school, Fields said.
"We do see the challenges there and we're very concerned about safety," Ticknor told the County Board last week.