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Council OKs Beltline Crossing Improvement

The area has been the site of four accidents in the last three years.

Even after they voted to improve the Beltline Boulevard bike crossing on Monday night, St. Louis Park City Council members seemed to acknowledge that more needs to be done.

“It feels like whatever we do is a Band-Aid,” councilwoman Julia Ross said. “This is a temporary fix.”

The crossing often befuddles bikers and motorists—and has been the site of four accidents in the last three years. In October 2009, a biker died after an accident.

Council's plan is to curve and veer the crossing toward the north. This will force bikers to naturally slow down as they approach Beltline, plus it will allow them to see oncoming traffic because they'd run parallel to it as the path curves.

In addition, the Beltline median will be widened, allowing bikers to more easily stop and wait for traffic to pass before they finish crossing the road. (See attached PDFs for a detailed look at the plan)

The project is expected to cost about $150,000.

Council members acknowledged that the ideal plan would be to elevate either the crossing or the road. But with , it is unclear what kind of changes will be needed to accomodate the new track and station—and council doesn't want to invest in a bridge now just to see it possibly torn down in a few years.

“There is no perfect solution to this," Mayor Jeff Jacobs said. "I wish there was.”

Councilwoman Anne Mavity proposed that Beltline be narrowed down to one lane in each direction on a pilot basis, allowing city staff to see if this could fix the problem. Mavity said this would be cheaper and quicker, and would allow the city to get some valuable traffic data.

“I’d like to actually see it," she said, "before we invest $150,000 in infrastructure that we (might) tear down in a few years."

Councilwoman Sue Sanger supported Mavity's plan, but the other five council members did not. Mavity and Sanger in turn voted against the final plan, which passed 5-2.

City staff expect to begin construction in September and have it wrapped up by November.

Julie Wells July 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM
I don't think the problem is making the bikers slow down to see the traffic will solve anything. As a biker and driver, I have seen bikers stop and just decide to risk it. Also, several years ago, I was forced to stop because a biker decided to cross and I was hit by a car who tried to get around me. I think a traffic signal would be a better solution.
Joe July 19, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I've never had a problem seeing vehicles on Beltline (or at Wooddale or Blake). The problem is drivers that think they are helping by stopping.
Rob July 19, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I agree with the previous posts. It's just a confusing situation for both bikers and drivers. Many of the drivers are trying to be courteous and stop, while others don't. And many bikers wait for traffic, while others don't . The best option would probably be to go over or under the road, but that expense might not be realistic, especially if they might have to modify the intersection for light rail anyway.
Michael Rose (Editor) July 19, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Rob, I would bet that after LRT construction, we might see some sort of grade separation like you mention
Alison July 19, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I'm glad the idea to narrow beltline to one lane each way was voted down. That's a terrible idea! I can't see that it would help anything, either.
Emily B July 19, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Exactly!! We need a traffic light, like on parts of the trail in Minneapolis. This curve is the worst solution. Slowing down bikers is NOT going to fix this. And a wider median? Who are they kidding? Cars will just stop, even though they shouldn't, when they see a bike in the middle.
guy davidson July 19, 2012 at 02:49 PM
fail of epic proportions as the kids say....and Minnesota is the most bike friendly state?
guy davidson July 19, 2012 at 02:51 PM
probably best solution... a push to cross traffic light.. only goes red when pushed.. obviously very little need for traffic light in winter etc
Emily B July 19, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I agree, given the circumstances with the elusive lightrail path. Much safer too.
Emily B July 19, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I just sent the following to the two at-large members and my ward rep. -- Dear Council Members, I just read in the Patch that the decision was made by the Council on Monday to go with the $150,000 option for "fixing" the intersection of the Cedar Lake Bike Trail with Beltline Blvd. As a cyclist, I have to say that curving the trail will do little to nothing to improve this intersection. This is the same setup at Wooddale and the cyclists that are set on blasting through do it anyway. They will do the same at Beltline. The ability to see traffic does not change the fact that no one understands who should stop. Cyclists who can clearly see cars, yet are fed up with waiting (like during rush hour) will take their chances and start to pull out, hoping traffic will stop. The signs are clear that trail users should stop, but few follow this, especially during those high traffic times. Many "Minnesota Nice" drivers stop at the intersection, thinking they are helping cyclists who want to cross, when really they just create more frustration and confusion for everyone. Curving traffic is not going to change their behavior either. Clear instruction on who must stop is needed. Why not install a light, as is found where the Midtown Greenway/Hiawatha trail crosses Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis? It is simple, yet safe, since cyclists push a button to get a signal, which stops traffic, only when occupied.
Emily B July 19, 2012 at 03:19 PM
The approved solution, like the intersection at Wooddale, is completely car-centric, and will only serve to frustrate cyclists and drivers alike. And given the attitude toward the lightrail in the Legislature, with rather large uncertainty about if/when that will get financial support, SLP needs to start thinking in terms of protecting our residents instead of just waiting on what might be in the future.
Mary Lorvick July 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Since there is confusion as to who is to stop on the part of motorists and/or bicyclists-couldn't there also be a sign for oncoming cars that trail traffic is to yield to them? To me an inexpensive solution.
mln1223 July 19, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I agree! I have had more close calls with other drives trying to stop when they don't have too! I think a traffic signal would be best .
Julie Wells July 19, 2012 at 07:19 PM
That might work, but I think most people know the rules and if you are in a car and forced to stop, someone behind you might try to get around you since you aren't following the rules. That happened to me several years ago and I was rear-ended. I only stopped because a bicyclist decided to cross when it was not safe.
guy davidson July 20, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Sign is dangerous..like the "crossing" on cedar lake road and virginia..one lane stops and the other lane passes in the other lane.I've seen ..actually seen two accidents this year
Reggie Smyth July 20, 2012 at 05:53 AM
What a collosal waste of money! The council just can't help itself from spending money -- $150,000 for one crossing? This is the same city who took away a stop sign on Lake Street to save a few grand and now look at the waste! How do they do it? They have no credibility.
Reggie Smyth July 20, 2012 at 05:54 AM
PS -- Is it true most of the council lives in this area? I've been told this is quickly becoming known as the city council of browndale since that is where the mayor, at large members and others live...they forget it is a big city out there...
Sarah Jensen July 20, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Reggie, I agree about this council simply wasting tax dollars. $150,000 is a lot of money for one crossing. I also heard from a city staff person about the mayor and that he threatened to quit his post during discussions of this. I heard he's said this before. Anyone know if there is any truth to the mayor threatening to quit?
ChrisF July 25, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Wait a minute -- has the mayor threatened to quit? People in city hall say he's threatened to quit in the past also...maybe Michael Rose can look into this...
Michael Rose (Editor) July 25, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I have not heard anything like this. Will of course report back if I do
CP August 16, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Michael, I worked in city administration for years but have since moved on. The mayor threatening to quit was about a monthly occurance. He would rant and rave about something and then tell whoever was nearby that he kept a reslgnation letter 'in the top desk door' and he would get it because he didn't need the job. Ask anyone who works in the city manager's office and they will tell you this is true. CP

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