Eden Prairie city officials are looking for more consistency in their approach to crosswalks and other pedestrian crossings, and it’s mostly because of the pandemic.
“This really stems from, I think, COVID,” says Public Works Director Robert Ellis. “COVID brought a lot of people out to our trail and sidewalk system, which is a good thing.
“As we’ve kind of returned to normal, the traffic has picked up. So I think people felt comfortable in 2020 walking around when there wasn’t a lot of traffic,” he adds. “But now that the traffic’s returning, they’ve been calling the Engineering Division quite a bit and saying, ‘Hey, I think we need a marked crosswalk here,’ or if there’s a crosswalk, ‘We need additional signage or lights.’”
The engineering staff’s response?
“We agreed,” Ellis says. “We think that we need to standardize how we evaluate intersections to determine if additional safety measures are needed.”
There are plenty of safety choices out there: better lighting, marked crosswalks, warning signs, curb treatments, flashing beacons, traffic signals, and more.
To get more consistent about which of those solutions to employ and when, city staff looked to Boulder, Colorado, for guidance. Boulder’s research and analysis has shaped the city’s new “City of Eden Prairie Pedestrian Crossing Treatment Guidelines,” a 22-page set of criteria, procedures, and policies unveiled this week.
The guidelines set out a specific process for evaluating pedestrian crossings where action might be needed. They include identifying the crossing’s characteristics, determining the nearest marked or protected crossing, and obtaining pedestrian and traffic volume data. A “flow chart” is used by staff along the way, and once all the data is plugged into it, a solution is pinpointed.
Still, there are thresholds to cross before solutions are implemented. For example, the new guidelines say pedestrian-crossing treatments generally shouldn’t be considered for locations that have, in terms of traffic volume, fewer than 1,500 average daily trips. (Exceptions can be made if a regional trail, transit station, school, or park is nearby.)
With the new approach, city staff has already determined that as many as 15 locations might get newly marked crosswalks in addition to the 170 marked crosswalks that exist today.
There are up to 13 more locations that might get pedestrian-activated flashing beacons that ask motorists to yield – formally called Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacons (RRFBs), like the one that exists where Dell Road intersects with the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail. Four of those currently exist.
Ellis is reluctant to say where the new safety treatments will be until staff go through the formal evaluation process. The changes, once identified, are expected to come in bunches of two or three projects a year, as funding allows, and sometimes when other street improvements in the same area are occurring.
The city, Ellis explains, already has the traffic counts, pedestrian data, and funding source to make changes. With the new guidelines, it will now have more consistency. And, he adds, “more equity” in what happens to pedestrian crossings from one area of Eden Prairie to another.
“This establishes a standard,” he says about the new approach. “Quite frankly, a standard that we don’t have right now.”
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