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Elton Hills Drive ‘road diet’ open house

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Residents looking for answers about potential lane reductions along Elton Hills Drive had a chance to ask Rochester Public Works directly on Monday at an open house.

Safety concerns along the busy stretch of road between Broadway Avenue and Highway 52 prompted a traffic study to identify improvements that address crashes, driver speed, as well as pedestrian and bicycle accessibility.

Alliant Engineering, a consulting company, conducted the study and finds that converting the existing four lanes to three can force drivers to slow down, reduce turning conflicts, and shorten the crossing distance.

"About 75 percent of the crashes on this corridor are the types of crashes that can be completely eliminated with three-lane cross-sections," said Sam Budzyna, the traffic and parking manager of Rochester Public Works. "It enhances sightlines, it does slow down traffic because being in only one lane in each way you're kinda at the mercy of the person in front of you."

Those changes come at a cost many residents aren't happy about.

"We have friends that live right on Elton Hills and it will be a nightmare for them to get out of their garages and back onto Elton hills drive," said Gloria Schmierer, a Rochester resident. She points out that the city is expecting to double its population over the next several years as part of Destination Medical Center, and residents worry the traffic slowdown would create more problems than it solves.

There is a menu of other safety improvement options to consider while still keeping the four lanes. This includes widening sidewalks and adding bike lanes.

"I'm not sure the bike lanes are such a hot idea," said Eric Straub, a long-time resident of Rochester. "I've ridden my bike to work several times, and it's easy right now with the four lanes, no turn lane, and no bicyclist lanes...I just want to see flow, traffic flow."

A similar proposal went before the city council in 2016, when there were different members. Those who voted down shrinking the lanes along the 2-mile corridor between broadway avenue and highway 52 thought it was unsafe.

The project, along with feedback from the community, will be presented to the city council next Monday. A vote will be part of a later meeting.

The Public Works Department is seeking feedback from Rochester residents. You can share your thoughts here.

The Elton Hills traffic study can be found here.

Linda Ha

Reporter | @LindaHaTV |

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