Putting a stop to traffic problems

A Linden Hills resident pushed for and received a stop sign at 46th & Vincent shortly before a motorcyclist was killed nearby this fall

LINDEN HILLS — When it comes to city policy, most people don’t march down themselves to City Hall to get it changed. But Randall Smith did exactly that.

Smith, a lawyer who lives and works in Linden Hills, had noticed several near-accidents by his home near Lake Harriet. There were few stop signs in the area, and some cars sped as fast as 40 to 50 mph down the road.

"We barely had time to pull out of the driveway without getting clipped," he said.

He also noticed cars nearly hitting children playing in the streets. Smith wasn’t the only one to be concerned — he said several neighbors posted signs reading, "Slow down, please enjoy the neighborhood" in their front yards.

In 2007, Smith decided to do something about the traffic problem. Even though he hadn’t seen any accidents, he felt it was only a matter of time before something serious happened.

"Something’s gonna happen here," he said. "There’s gonna be an accident or worse."

Smith went online and filed a new traffic sign request at the city of Minneapolis website. He received a letter from the city on April 9 stating that the intersection in question — 46th Street West & Vincent Avenue South — had been discussed before, and that an all-way stop sign was not recommended.

But Smith didn’t stop there. In July 2008, Smith’s wife said he should call someone after seeing a child nearly struck by a passing car. Smith contacted City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward), and alerted her about the dangerous intersection.

"… It’s only a matter of time before a serious accident or fatality occurs due to the lack of a northbound/southbound stop sign," he wrote.

Much to his surprise, Hodges’ office contacted him in about a week. Smith spoke to Hodges’ assistant about his concerns for the area and his belief that a stop sign would make the area safer for residents.

"My wife said to offer to pay for the stop sign if they didn’t put it in," Smith remembered.

After that phone call, Smith heard nothing. He was planning on writing another letter when his wife called him at work on Friday in early October. The city had put up the stop sign.

"I told my wife, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’" he said.

But Smith’s happiness was short-lived. On Oct. 19, 39-year-old motorcyclist Amos Louis Sims III was killed at 46th Street West & Upton Avenue South — just one block away from the newly-installed stop sign on Vincent.

Smith hoped the accident would make more people think about the traffic problems in that area.

"Until someone gets killed or in an accident, people won’t do anything," he said.

But Smith says the stop sign on Vincent has improved traffic. He said anyone could accomplish something like this if they present their case well and are determined enough to see it through.

"People need to be empowered," he said. "You don’t need someone to tell you to do this or not."

City Council Member Betsy Hodges said traffic concerns in the area have been addressed. She spoke with residents at a recent Linden Hills Neighborhood Council meeting who were concerned about speeds, parking, and the volume of traffic along Upton Avenue.

Hodges said her staff is currently working on traffic management options. She expected to receive information soon that would be presented at the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council meeting in January.