Drivers forced to ‘play chicken’ near Lakeville school

County plans to unveil study options at March 21 open house

Some Kenwood Trail Middle School parents say they are “playing chicken” to drive their

This intersection at County Road 50 and 185th Street (County Road 60) is slated to become a two-lane roundabout. Construction is to begin next year. Photo by Laura Adelmann

This intersection at County Road 50 and 185th Street (County Road 60) is slated to become a two-lane roundabout. Construction is to begin next year. Photo by Laura Adelmann

children to and from school.

“Getting in and out of the entrances is every challenging,” said Kenwood Trail Middle School parent David Domack. “You just sometimes wonder if you’re going to get out alive.”

Kenwood Trail Middle School is perched atop a hill on a curved part of County Road 50, Lakeville’s most heavily traveled north-south connector to I-35.

Parents interviewed said limited visibility and few traffic gaps frequently causes traffic back-ups in the school parking lot and nearby roads that can sometimes delay their entrance onto County Road 50 by five minutes or more.

Another area where travel is compromised by traffic is just south of the school where Jaguar Avenue serves as the lake neighborhood’s only access point.

Congestion concerns regarding those areas have increased in the past few years as Dakota County and Lakeville officials began plans to in 2014 build a two-lane roundabout at the County Road 50/185th Street (County Road 60) intersection just north of Kenwood Trail Middle School.

The $5.8 million project, determined to be a safer, more cost-effective way to handle traffic volumes in the area, also widens County Roads 50 and 60 to four lanes from the intersection to Jurel Way on County Road 60 and to Orchard Trail on County Road 50.

The possibility of widening County Road 50 to four lanes south of the intersection near the school and Jaguar Avenue is problematic due to right-of-way costs and logistics as that area of the road is flanked with development that includes longtime businesses, homes and railroad tracks that enjoy federal protections and are not preempted by state and local laws.

Some residents, including James Blanchard, a 45-year Jaguar Path resident and retired engineer, worry that the roundabout may not slow traffic enough to allow for better access onto County Road 50 south of the intersection.

Blanchard added that property along County Road 50 is slated for development, including the old Cross Nursery property, and he questioned how it would handle more local drivers and increased traffic flows through the roundabout.

“I’m quite concerned,” Blanchard said. “Right now, it’s count to three, smash the gas and go.”

Dakota County is expected to present study findings that project how a roundabout would affect traffic along the corridor at a March 21 open house at Kenwood Trail Middle School from 4-7 p.m. with a presentation at 5:30 p.m.
Although the study modeling is not complete, Assistant Dakota County Engineer Brian Sorenson told Lakeville City Council members at a Feb. 25 workshop that the models are showing “very little change” in time gaps between vehicles along County Road 50.

He added that the models did not show the roundabout adding to the problem.

Lakeville City Administrator Steve Mielke said the study’s major issue is when to improve the corridor to four lanes.

“The amount of traffic on County Road 50 is reaching a point where it does not have the capacity to carry increasing traffic loads,” he said.

Former Lakeville City Administrator and current Lakeville School Board Member Bob Erickson is advocating that the county relocate the traffic signal now at County Roads 50/60 intersection down the road to 192nd Street, across from Kenwood Trail Middle School’s north driveway.

That idea has the support of Kenwood Trail Middle School parent Brenda Luehr, who said she worries without change a serious accident, with deadly injury is nearly inevitable.

“You’re just dodging the bullet trying to get across” to the school, Luehr said. She called County Road 50 “treacherous” in the morning.

“Something eventually’s gong to happen there,” Luehr said.

Luehr’s 12-year-old daughter Sydney, a seventh-grader at Kenwood Trail Middle School, said many people are traveling fast on the road.

“I feel like they need to just put in a stoplight to like slow them down,” she said.

Luehr said she feels so strongly about the need to control the traffic, she would pay additional taxes to fund the improvement.

“It should have been looked at a long time ago,” Luehr said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Mielke said as the county’s study will indicate if a signal or other traffic control at 192nd Street would help middle school traffic get onto County Road 50.

Kenwood Trail Middle School Principal Kate Eisenthal said she has worked at the school for about 20 years and has seen traffic concerns increase.

She said parents are aware of the issues and are careful drivers in and around the school.

No student walks across County Road 50, and a dean manages traffic flow to help ensure safety. A neon yellow walkway caution sign is in the parking lot in front of the main doors.

Lakeville Mayor Matt Little said in an interview that he liked Erickson’s idea, but needs to see the county’s data and options before pursuing the option with the county.

“There are issues, clear and identifiable issues that Jaguar and the school has identified,” Little said. “We need to be talking about this … we need to be talking about solutions instead of just problems.”

  • Love the water

    Solution: turn right. Putting a light there begins to turn Cty Rd 50 into Cty Rd 46 – stop, go, stop, go, stop, go.

    • A Smith

      Turn right? That’s not a traffic solution. Even turning right can be difficult at rush hour.

      • Charlie Gerk

        There are a lot of solutions to a problem like this, but a forced right turn might not be the worst if the county won’t put in a light, build an acceleration lane and allow people to get up to speed and merge.

        I think a signal is a better idea though, you could time it to to be all reds only during peak school hours and then make it all green for CR 50 traffic and flashing yellows for the school exits and the opposing roads during non peak hours.

        The other problem is we have a lot of traffic that takes CR50 because Ipava is full of stops. Make the roads equal and I bet you will notice a fall in daily traffic on CR50

  • Love the water

    In all seriousness, they should be able to put in a basic stoplight that only turns red for Cty rd 50 if somebody drives over the trigger leaving Kenwood Trail Middle School. However, is it really an issue on a normal day? Is the complaining intensifying because of the snow/traffic issues? If so, take a deep breath, their are bigger issues – remember – Mayor Little wants extra lanes built on 35 because traffic backs up during a snow storm. Today traffic during rush hour was moving WELL above 70 mph between Cty Rd 70 and Cty Rd 50 on 35 and I am sure exiting Kenwood this morning was not a problem. We cannot add more concrete and more traffic management because of a snow storm during rush hour. In three more years you won’t have to worry because your kid will be out of middle school

    • A Smith

      Yes, that would be a good solution…to only have the stoplight turn red if someone from Kenwood triggers it. As far as it being a problem on a normal day, yes, it is. It is also a problem for the Jaguar Ave neighborhood just south of Kenwood Trail Middle School. Every week day, every rush hour.

  • Tim

    I am not affected nor do I effect this problem but my observations are thus. I witness more and more congestion and traffic problems at many schools, including the private church schools, with traffic issues. At the same time I am trying to get to work and being threatened by the maniacal drivers, both parent and student rushing in and out of a school area so that they won’t be late for work themselves or the students won’t be late or tardy. I may be wrong but I see many a less than full busload, they still run those big orange buses right? Or perhaps even those kids that live within a reasonable walking distance to school. Come on know, 1/2 or even a mile is not that far. Kids need to be more disciplined in this regard and not so coddled about having to walk a bit. Wake up earlier! Ride the bus! By the way which our tax dollars are paying for.And for those drivers, be a little more respectful, courteous and safe!

    • A Smith

      I agree with you that school zones can be really crazy right before/after school, but I don’t think that is the only problem. As I said, trying to exit Jaguar Ave at rush hour can be just as difficult, especially with the downhill curve coming from the north at 50mph. Hwy 50 is nearing capacity and I believe it is projected to pass that in 2030? The roundabout will change traffic patterns and if the traffic from the north becomes uninterrupted by a traffic light at 185th it could make this even more difficult. At some point in time, this road will have to become two lanes each direction, no question.

      • Everything Costs Money

        Atleast there are sidewalks in this area for kids to watch. Over by Lakeville South along 210th Street students are walking on a 45 – 50 mile per hour road to get to the high school. Further west they are walking along a 35 mph road to get over to the junior high. Our city is pro-growth only assuming that the homebuilders are paying for the roads. The city(and county) is unable to keep up with the main arteries

    • Love the water

      Tim, the reason you see so many parents taking the kids to school might be because the school district suffered budget cuts and cut out funding for kids to take a bus if they live under a certain distance from school. Parents had to fork out $150 per child to ride the bus. Many parents feel that it is cheaper to run their kids to school rather than pay $150 per kid to ride the bus.

  • Mark Rosenquist

    The solution is already in place but I have never seen it used, even though I travel this rout twice a day. The center turn lane is not just to get off the main road and onto side roads. It is also to get from side roads to main roads. When there is a break from the left you are supposed to pull out to the center turn lane. Then when there is a break from what was your right you pull into that lane. Both of these intersection have room for many cars to be in the center turn lane at one time. We do not need to beg the government to save us, we need to use what we have more effectively, and we need better driver education. This works and it is already paid for.

    • A Smith

      Mark, actually I talked to a representative at the open house 3/21 at Kenwood Trail Middle School and that is NOT what the center lane is for on this road. You should not pull out and sit in the center lane and wait until you can move on. On this particular road, that center lane is a turn lane only.

  • Mark Rosenquist

    I would like to save Lakeville about $4 millon dollars on a very bad idea they have, a round about at 185 and Kenwood. I agree that the traffic backs up to the north to the next light sometimes but I do not agree with the solution. Make east bound 185 two lanes alll the way from the freeway. At Kenwood, the right lanes becomes a right turn only and is not subject to the light becuse it becomes a second eastbound Kenwood lane. This will keep people on the freeway one more exit to 185. They will have fewer lights to go through and a dedicated lane to not wait at the light at 185/Kenwood.This will solve at lest 80% of the issue for 20% of the cost and we will not have a roundabout to really mess things up. Please reconsider.

    • A Smith

      Mark, those are short term solutions, but from what I’ve read, this corridor will be over capacity in about 15 years. If we wait, you’ll all be wondering why something wasn’t done sooner…well, here’s your chance. No question Hwy 50/Kenwood Trail will need to be four lanes in the near future and at that time, if not before, the 185th/Kenwood intersection and the side streets entering Kenwood Trail south of that must be addressed. As for entering the center turn lane to try and get out of the middle school and other side roads, it sounds great and everything but in practice, I don’t see that really alleviating much, not to mention, it being very dangerous on slippery roads in the winter. With the downhill curves in that area and lots of traffic coming from the north…it can be a risky endeavor trying to enter Hwy 50 on any day, rain or shine.

  • Chris

    I say NO to the Round-About. People DO NOT know how to drive through them AT ALL. They are not as efficient as they want you to believe. The other Round-About by Super America and the Fire Station is a joke.

    I also would not want stop light after stop all along 50. Turning 50 into another County 42 is asinine.

    I would be in favor of making 50 into two lanes however. I am in favor of keeping traffic flowing with few stops as possible.

    But don’t be fooled, we will end up with the Round-About. They clearly have their minds made up, they’ve already spent money on surveys and studies – you can be guarenteed of that!!

    This little dog and pony show for a meeting is just so they can say everyone had their chance to speak their peace. But like everything when Self-Serving City Councils and Gov’t are involved you will be voicing your opinion to a blank wall!

    • Jan Dobson

      Hi Chris. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with the concept of the roundabout, per se. Even in major metropolises where rules of the road are routinely treated more as suggestions than laws, I’ve seen roundabouts work beautifully. But I do completely agree that many of us here in Minnesota don’t understand how to drive through them. Turn signaling—or lack thereof—is of particular concern. It would be a valuable community service if SUN Thisweek were to publish a “how to” article on the subject of correctly negotiating roundabouts.

      I must add that many of the roundabouts I’ve seen locally are too small to be of much help, especially during times of traffic congestion. Also, those with overly elevated center circles make it impossible to judge the speed and intention of oncoming traffic.

      • WJG

        I agree that a majority of drivers are unaware of how to use a roundabout and you prove the point precisely Jan. The elevation, and as I’ve seen others mention, the vegetation of the center of the circle should have absolutely no bearing on judging anything. When approaching a roundabout, what is across the circle should be of no concern. What is DIRECTLY outside your drivers window is all you need be concerned with. If you enter while a car is coming around 1 or 2 spokes away, as long as you maintain speed that car will remain 1 or 2 spokes away. When folks stop and wait for a clean (empty) circle is when the design breaks down. There are (typically but not always) gaps between most cars traversing the circle. When there is, maintain your speed and fill the gaps.

        And I agree that that most roundabouts around here are way too small and makes signaling your exit nearly pointless. I suspect the proposal for 50/60 will be large enough where that skill will be more needed.

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