County puts brakes on Stillwater roundabout

Myrtle-Owens intersection study on hold until river bridge done

WashCo_logoWashington County has postponed a proposed improvement study for a Stillwater intersection that included construction of a mini-roundabout, county officials announced Wednesday.

The county planned to hire a consultant to study various improvements at the intersection of Myrtle and Owens streets (County roads 5 and 12) to reduce traffic congestion. The project was budgeted for 2014.

Instead, the county will delay the study until construction of the new St. Croix River bridge project is complete. The decision was made in consultation with Stillwater city officials, county officials said.

Once the bridge is finished, the county and city can better understand central Stillwater traffic patterns before possible intersection changes are recommended, county officials said.

“At this intersection, nothing will be changed, other than re-striping,” said County Engineer Wayne Sandberg.

And it appears a mini-roundabout would not be considered at the Myrtle and Owens intersection, Sandberg added.

“It will not be a roundabout construction,” he said.

About a year ago, county Public Works Department officials proposed a mini-roundabout as one of several possible solutions to traffic congestion at Myrtle and Owens streets. The other options were two different traffic signal and lane configurations and making no changes.

The Myrtle-Owens intersection was one of 10 intersections the Federal Highway Administration selected as federal mini-roundabout test project. The FHA would pay 90 percent of design and construction costs up to $100,000.

In exchange, the county and city would agree to leave the mini-roundabout in place for three years so research data could be collected on the relatively new traffic pattern in the U.S. If the mini-roundabout was unsatisfactory, the county and city would have to pay to tear it out.

County officials said the mini-roundabout minimized loss of parking, improved traffic gaps, offered better pedestrian visibility and wider sidewalks and was less expensive than installing traffic signals because the county would not have to acquire land for the project.

But the mini-roundabout idea drew a mixed reaction for Stillwater officials and neighborhood residents. Many residents feared losing on-street parking spots and having fewer parking spaces at Len’s Market at the intersection.

Sandberg said the county’s decision to delay the Myrtle-Owens intersection study allows officials to look at developing traffic patterns and study improvements to Pine Street.

In an unrelated project, the county Board of Commissioners approved a cooperative agreement with Bayport and Baytown Township sharing construction costs and maintenance of a traffic signal at the Stagecoach Trail and Inspiration Parkway intersection.

Commissioners also awarded the $133,000 project to Egan Co. The project includes construction of a wood pole traffic signal and pedestrian improvements at the intersection. The signal is funded with state aid and funds from Bayport and Baytown Township.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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