Viewpoint: 70th Street safety fix should come sooner
In regard to the recent article, “After crash, safety issues along 70th Street get renewed attention,” I would like to add a few observations.
First, residents should be aware that the needed improvements have been repeatedly bumped by the county. They were originally slated for 2014. They were then pushed to 2015 and now to 2017. As one of many concerned homeowners, I feel something needs to be done to fix it sooner rather than later. A large number of additional homes are already being built between 70th and County Road 19. Completion of that planned subdivision as well as any more growth will only continue to exacerbate the congestion and hazards of the roadway. All of the county and city officials have been receptive to my concerns, but it still often feels like we are on the low end of the priority list in Washington County. The long term goal, according to the planners who have met with my family, is that 70th will eventually resemble Valley Creek Road in Woodbury. If that is true, they need to be upfront with all of us who own property fronting the road and those who back onto it as well, since an eventual widening to that level may cause many of our homes to be too close to the road. My family has only owned our house at on 70th since 2004, but many of our neighbors have been there for 30 years or longer. Some of those people are starting to get up in years and those homes may soon be on the market as they move into a new phase in their lives. Real estate experts have told me that now that the expansion has been announced, we are legally obligated to tell potential buyers about the proposed changes and how those will affect the landscape of the homes.
Second, the issue of access to community features must be addressed. Homes on the north side of the roadway are cut off from the new bike park in West Draw. The residents on the south side are cut off from access to the walking trails and the splash pad at Highlands Park. Right now the road is dividing the town.
It is past time for further study of the road. I proposed at a recent City Council meeting and will continue to advocate for the formation of a task force to study this roadway. This group should consist of members of the city’s Planning Commission, a council representative, a member of law enforcement, 70th Street residents and a representative from Washington County.
I hope the media continue to report on this issue. Rev. Ben Tims’ death was a tragedy and it should have been prevented. My biggest hope is that change can happen prior to additional losses. If not, I fear a child trying to cross the road to get to the new bike park or splash pad may be the next victim. Sixty-three accidents in a two-mile stretch of roadway in four years is a red flag.
As for the restriping, I hope I am wrong, but so far it has only changed the nature of the hazard and not improved safety. Cars are no longer swerving into the right turn lanes or onto shoulders to go around people turning, but I have already had cars swerve around me in the left turn lane as I slowed to make a right turn into my driveway.
Finally, I would urge all local residents who have concerns to start driving slower. The maximum speed is 50, but there is not a posted minimum. At the county’s request, the state will be evaluating the speed in coming weeks. One item they look at is how fast people travel on the road. If concerned residents start traveling slower, it will influence the outcome of the study because it a reflection that the current speed is too high. So please slow down. The extra two minutes you spend driving may save a life.
Kim Graff, Cottage Grove