Coping with Lyndale congestion

Community calls on city, county to curb traffic near Lyndale construction 

Heather Layton was eating dinner with her family on a Wednesday in early July when a loud noise startled her out of her seat.  

“We heard this bang, smash, boom,” she said. “We all ran out, you know, and thank God there were no kids involved.”

A passing car managed to hit her family’s two vehicles parked in the street, totaling one of them and wrecking two attached bicycles. But Layton said she wasn’t completely shocked by the accident.  

Traffic on the 4400 block of Aldrich Avenue where she lives has been heavier than usual lately because of Lyndale Avenue reconstruction, which started in June. Lyndale from 38th Street to 50th Street is closed to through traffic and will stay that way through fall.

The posted detour for Lyndale is France Avenue to the west, but many travelers are turning down the narrow neighborhood streets of Aldrich and Garfield that sandwich Lyndale instead.

The increased traffic volume and speed has caused safety concerns among area residents, who have reached out to city and county leaders for help.

“It is a residential street, and I have never seen the kind of traffic that is on there,” said 20-year Aldrich resident Sharon Rodning Bash, who wrote a letter to Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) about the issue. “And the kind of careless traffic that seems to presume that it’s just a paved surface to get someone from one way to the other as fast as possible, and people do treat it like an alternate freeway.”

Bash, Layton and other residents have been confounded by the detour, which they said no one seems to be following. They have made requests for signs stating Aldrich is not a through street, more stop signs, speed bumps and a lower speed limit than the posted 30 mph.  

County traffic counts from 2004 show that Lyndale from 36th Street to 50th Street averaged 12,700 vehicles a day. Displaced drivers are being routed to France for a reason, said Hennepin County Project Engineer Don Shaffer, who oversees the Lyndale project.

Since Lyndale is a county  project, only county roads can be designated as official detour routes, he said. France was the closest option and the best suited to handle large traffic loads, he said. And the detour has been used by some.

“With that said, local traffic will find their own way,” he said. “That’s why we get so much traffic on Aldrich and Garfield.”

In response to community concerns, Shaffer said signs reading “road closed, local traffic only,” would be placed along Aldrich and Garfield this month. He also said construction vehicles are not permitted to drive down city streets — something residents have complained about — and anyone who sees such activity can call 911 to report it.     

The East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association (EHFNA) planned to distribute its own “slow down, this is our neighborhood” signs this month to residents who want them. The neighborhood group had long-anticipated traffic issues related to Lyndale construction, said EHFNA President Matt Perry.

Perry has also been able to get speed-reading stations called speed wagons on Aldrich as well as Bryant Avenue, another street that has seen an uptick in traffic.

Community members’ resolve to make their streets safer is really what’s driving the efforts, Perry said.

“In a situation like this, a resident or a police officer or a council member is not going to be able to solve this traffic problem,” he said. “It’s going to take all of us and it’s great to see that residents are taking the lead in doing that.”

Layton has been extra vigilant about monitoring traffic on her street since the accident. The mother of two 8-year-old boys said many children live nearby. Her minivan and car were in the street for a reason.

She had a speed wagon placed in the street in front of her home after the crash and she’s spent much of her time in the front yard. She has even put a chair in the road to get people off the gas pedal.

“I was just glad it was a car that got hit and not a kid,” she said. “Because it could have been very easily.”

The entire Lyndale project stretches from 31st Street to Minnehaha Creek and was designed to create a more efficient road featuring parking bump-outs, new lighting and a partial tree-planted median. The project is scheduled for completion in 2009.

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Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]