A slight majority of residents who submitted comments on the proposed three-lane restriping of Baker Road between Valley View Road and County Road 62 are in favor of the change, according to Hennepin County Transportation Planning Division Manager Chad Ellos.
The county is planning to resurface County Road 60, which is comprised of segments of Mitchell Road south of Valley View and Baker Road north of Valley View. The three-lane restriping is planned between St. Andrews Drive just north of Valley View and Pinnacle Drive, just south of County Road 62.
Restriping of the existing roadway, which currently has two lanes running in both directions without turn lanes, will reduce the road to one lane in each direction and add left hand turn lanes from Baker Road onto side streets, as well as widened shoulders. The project is expected to begin this summer, Ellos said.
March 2 City Council to include Baker Road update, resident feedback
County representatives will present the proposal to the Eden Prairie City Council meeting at its 7 p.m. March 2 meeting. Residents can address the council before meetings from 6:30 to 6:55 p.m. by contacting the City Manager’s office at 952-949-8412 by noon of the meeting date. Time permitting, the Mayor will open the floor to unscheduled speakers.
In advance of the City Council meeting, EPLN submitted written questions to Hennepin county and received written responses regarding the project from Ellos.
EPLN: There is sentiment among some residents that there is a desire on the county’s behalf to use this project to add bicycle lanes, marked or not, to Baker Road. Can you address that?
Ellos: This project is being driven by a pavement need and provides the opportunity to re-evaluate the striping configuration based on safety needs. Crashes typical of a four-lane undivided roadway are expected to be reduced while improving the sidewalk and trail experience along the corridor. Excess width is delegated to shoulder space with the main benefit being a buffer between moving vehicles and people walking or biking on the trail or sidewalk. The shoulder space is flexible to accommodate multiple uses such as on-road cyclists, disabled vehicles, postal deliveries, and snow removal operations.
EPLN: Some residents on social media are claiming that accident data provided by the county doesn’t justify this proposal (i.e., there aren’t many left hand turn accidents; there aren’t many accidents on Baker at all; no pedestrian accidents, etc.). Can you address those claims?
Ellos: This pavement maintenance project provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the striping configuration based on safety needs. Between 2016 and 2019, 22 crashes occurred between Pinnacle Drive and St. Andrews Drive. Sixty-four percent of these crashes were rear-end (vehicles waiting on Baker Road to turn left) or angle (side street vehicles pulling out in front of vehicles on Baker Road (a.k.a. T-bones)) crashes that are expected to be reduced with a three-lane section.
EPLN: Some claim that the most dangerous area along this section of Baker Road is at the exit/entrance of the Life Time Crosstown onto Baker Road, and that area is not being changed. Others think the County Road 62/Baker Road intersection needs reconfiguring – and that’s not part of this project. Are there plans to address those areas?
Ellos: The Baker Road and County Road 62 intersection has a concrete surface and improvements to concrete pavement are not included within this project – the project actually stops just south of County Road 62 and starts again just north of County Road 62. As for the Life Time (Crosstown) access, county staff is proposing to make striping modifications to the northbound right-turn lane to better designate the turn lane into Life Time separate from the turn lane onto County Road 62 eastbound. Future improvements in this area will require a larger project and are out of scope for this pavement project.
EPLN: Another concern is that the change will result in traffic congestion on Baker due to the lane reduction. Do traffic counts on Baker Road require a four-lane road?
Ellos: Current and historical traffic counts on Baker Road do not require four lanes between the signalized intersections of Valley View Road and County Road 62. Historically, traffic counts have showed about 10,000 vehicles per day traveling along Baker Road where the restriping is proposed. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) notes that roadways are good candidates for three lane conversions if the average daily vehicle traffic is below 20,000. The daily and hourly data shows that the traffic volumes along Baker Road are well below established thresholds for a three-lane roadway. Therefore, minimal impact in delay is expected for people driving along the corridor.
EPLN: Was there any consideration given to adding stop signs/lights at Holly Road (Forest Hills Elementary), Edenvale Blvd., or anywhere else along Baker?
Ellos: Stop signs and signals are not within the scope of this pavement project. We will continue to monitor the road to determine if future needs and changes are warranted. We will be upgrading pedestrian curb ramps to be compliant with current standards as well as adding a short center median on the north side of the Edenvale Boulevard intersection to better facilitate pedestrian crossings.
EPLN: What role is public sentiment going to play in deciding whether to move forward with this project?
Ellos: Public engagement and the opinions and experiences of those who live along a corridor and travel through it are an important part of a project’s success. Through our engagement effort, we mailed more than 800 residents and businesses postcards about the project providing general information, including a project website with an opportunity to share feedback with the project team. Additionally, an email reaching over 4,500 residents in both Eden Prairie and Minnetonka was sent to notify a wider audience about the project through the county’s local email subscription lists.
We received feedback in the form of calls, emails and comments through our website from 125 residents. Through this engagement, there was a narrow majority of residents supporting the project’s safety and traffic calming benefits. Our motivation to restripe a portion of Baker Road continues to be promoting safe road operations while minimizing overall risks to the public.