New roundabout coming to West St. Paul


The new roundabout in West St. Paul will be at the intersection of Wentworth and Oakdale Avenue. The roundabout is intended to reduce the high number of right-angle crashes at the intersection.

The ground hasn’t even thawed, yet plans are already in the works for a new road construction project. The preliminary work is set to begin in February. 

Dakota County announced West St. Paul will be getting a single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Wentworth Avenue (County Road 8) and Oakdale Avenue (County Road 73).

Traffic engineers said an intersection assessment was completed in 2008, and updated in 2011 and 2014.

Kristi Sebastian, traffic engineer for Dakota County, said the traffic group reviews many intersections for safety and operation. Assessments look at safety of the area by pulling historical collision information, as well as traffic control to see what option would be best.

An assessment was done at this location because of the number of complaints about traffic delays. Sebastian said different traffic control options were looked at, including an all-way stop, traffic signal and roundabout. At the time of the original assessment in 2008, a traffic signal was recommended as the cheapest option, if the same level of safety data continued. 

But the frequency of collisions at the intersection steadily rose. The crash history is now three times higher than the state average for right-angle crashes at similar intersections, Jenna Fabish, project manager for Dakota County, said.

As the trend emerged, the county began to explore other methods of improving safety at the intersection.

Sebastian said the roundabout option was chosen because it was the best traffic control option in terms of both safety and movement of traffic.

“Roundabouts virtually eliminate right-angle crashes,” Fabish said.

Sebastian said the initial report was more like a feasibility study of what to plan for while the final report was the official report that needed to be done to move forward with a traffic control device on a county/state aid roadway.

The roundabout will be similar to the two roundabouts at Wentworth Avenue and U.S. Highway 52.

Pedestrian facilities will be part of the design. These allow for pedestrians to get to any leg of the intersection and then across. There is a median “refuge” for pedestrians so they can go across one lane of traffic at a time.

“At a controlled intersection or a signalized intersection, a pedestrian has to go across the entire intersection,” Fabish explained.

This type of design provides relief in the middle for pedestrians when there are oncoming vehicles.

Fabish said the new roundabout is in the area of the West St. Paul Sports Complex and the River to River Greenway is located at the northwest corner, so there is a lot of pedestrian traffic in the area.

An open house was held on Wednesday, Jan. 11, to discuss the construction staging of the project. Residents were able to talk with Dakota County staff as well as city engineer Ross Beckwith.

Beckwith said he was not a city employee when the plans were finalized, but he had not heard much negative feedback regarding the project.

“The city is used to it a little bit just based on the ones we have already,” Beckwith said. “I think people are pretty OK with it.”

Darlene Hagen lives in the northwest corner of the project area. Another resident, Charlie, also lives within the construction area. Both were at the meeting to learn more about the project.

Hagen and Charlie said they found out about the project roughly a year ago. Hagen said she prefers roundabouts to traffic lights.

“We’ve had lots of accidents since the signals were there,” Hagen said, adding that she thinks the roundabout will help keep traffic moving during rush hour.

Charlie did have a few concerns regarding the new roundabout. He said the two current roundabouts are mounded in the middle. 

“When you approach the roundabout you can’t see beyond the mounds,” Charlie said.

He said he and his wife would like the center of the roundabout to be flat so that as drivers approach it they can see in all directions.

Fabish said like any city or county capital improvement project, it has to be approved by the city council and county board in order to proceed.

Dakota County received roughly $930,000 in federal funding for the project, which will cover most of the $1.04 million price tag. The remaining cost will be split between the city and the county.

Fabish said utility relocation and tree clearing will take place starting in February with construction beginning in June. The goal is to have the project completed by September of this year.

The project will include a total intersection closure. Beckwith said the closure will begin on June 9 and go until Sept. 1. The timing was set to coincide with local schools’ summer break and should help prevent busing issues.

There will be a marked detour during the construction period.

“The people using it will have to go up to Thompson Avenue or down to Southview Boulevard,” Fabish said. 

Beckwith said since this is a county project, the best place to look for information would be the county’s project website, where residents can sign up for email updates. 

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

 

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