In a joint effort with Costco, the City of Eden Prairie is tackling traffic woes at the bustling shopping destination on Technology Drive by installing a new traffic light.
City Engineer Carter Schulze stated on Nov. 21 that the currently non-operational signal is anticipated to become active next week.
“We were seeing traffic problems getting worse there, and that tipped the scales,” Schulze said. “A traffic signal at this entrance, I think, will help manage the flow in and out more effectively, with less demand for police (to direct traffic).”
Schulze said the city encountered significant traffic challenges at Costco last year, particularly during the holiday season. The situation prompted Costco to enlist the help of city police for traffic management.
“We tried to sit down with Costco and understand the cause, how they’re utilizing traffic control, and we found the police were essentially acting as traffic lights,” Schulze said.
This led to a collaborative approach, with Schulze noting, “We put the responsibility on Costco, as they are a major driver of the traffic, to address these issues.” As a result, Costco hired a traffic engineer to design a temporary traffic signal for the site.
In preparation, the city restriped Technology Drive earlier this summer, creating a layout conducive to the new signal.
“It is a temporary signal, technically,” Schulze said. “We didn’t want to put a permanent installation in there just to keep our options open essentially for the future of that corridor as things possibly change along Technology Drive.”
Schulze drew a parallel to the Dell Road and Pioneer Trail signal, which remained temporary for 20-some years until the county eventually redid it a couple of years ago.
He said Costco paid for the traffic light. “It was a privately paid-for endeavor,” he said. “Ultimately, the city will manage the signal moving forward after it’s completed,” he said.
The delay in the signal’s activation was due to power source complications. “We were hoping to have it up before Thanksgiving,” Schulze said, recognizing the holiday’s impact on traffic. However, he remains hopeful for its operation next week.
Schulze said the traffic light placement at Costco’s west entrance is intended to manage the flow of vehicles, primarily those heading to the gas pumps. Costco officials have told Schulze that there are tentative plans to revamp the gas facilities there.
“I think the idea was that side would be more where there’s in and out traffic is going to go to get gas,” he said.
Costco is scheduled to open a new store in Chaska in 2024. Schulze noted that Costco officials told him they expect a decrease in customer traffic at the Eden Prairie store following the opening.
“I think the (Eden Prairie) store is one of the busiest ones in the region,” Schulze said. “But (Costco) expects (business) to shift over (to Chaska) a little bit, and then maybe some may come back. But, a percentage of that will stay over there because I think (the Eden Prairie Costco store) attracts many people from (suburbs to the west such as Chanhassen and Chaska).”
The city’s contribution to the traffic light project includes reusing traffic management equipment from recent projects.
“That was a big plus for us,” Schulze added, highlighting the efficiency of reusing equipment with useful life remaining.
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