Suzannah Ciernia, a member of both the 1997 and 2005 Northfield Citizen Task Forces on Highway 3 wrote me an e-mail recently that I thought brought up some excellent points. With her permission, I’ve reprinted it here in the NDDC Blog.
While serving on the Ad Hoc Committee, I recall the traffic counts we looked at for the Third Street crossing of TH3 were surprisingly high and were close to the minimum required for a light. I remember hearing someone reference that the school buses on their way to Longfellow chose that crossing point in the morning in order to be on the right side of the street in front of the school. Dale Finger was on our committee and probably knows the intersection better than anybody.
Another compelling reason is the river crossing. There are only 3 bridges that cross east-west traffic over the river. Enhancing the use of the old “entry” into town would take the strain off of 2nd and 5th Street bridges. Good transportation plans encourage having alternate routes in place to more evenly distribute traffic flow.
2nd Street bridge is a workhorse, chosen by the majority of west side residents coming into downtown. It’s traffic load will only increase as the development goes in.
5th street bridge carries traffic coming from the south and west, and is already carrying a heavy load. The adjacent TH3 intersection is the only westward route for southside residents heading to 35W. This bottleneck is further exacerbated by the train schedule (which is predicted to increase) and now by Walgreen’s entrance/exit traffic, which further strains stacking capacity. (The entire area west of the 5th Street-TH3 intersection is poorly designed for traffic flow and safety and should be re-designed, but I digress)
A light at 3rd Street would give drivers another choice, and lighten the load at 2nd and 5th Street bridges. It would also enhance traffic calming, keep speeds legal, foster the feel of a city street, and could accommodate a beautiful safer pedestrian crossing location.
I spent two years meeting every month with MNDoT, 12 other citizens, and city staff, and we studied every inch of the .6 mile stretch of TH3. Two years!! Our conclusions were developed after much dialogue and were based on a hard-won consensus. This was no small feat. Our top priority was safety and for this reason, we all strongly advocated for a light at 3rd Street. (We also strongly advocated NO right turn lane at 2nd Street, however MNDoT pushed it through).
In every single public meeting, survey, interview, and there were many, people stressed safety over everything else. I can’t think of any more compelling reason to install a light there.