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Traffic signal to be installed at 70th Street, Meadow Grass in Cottage Grove

A busy intersection will be modified later this summer to include a traffic signal and allow for smoother traffic through Cottage Grove.

A traffic signal will be installed at 70th Street South and Meadow Grass Avenue after the project received final approval from both the Washington County Board and Cottage Grove City Council.

As a main thoroughfare through the city, 70th Street carries between 8,000 and 9,400 vehicles daily, many traveling by Meadow Grass Avenue. Washington County Engineer Wayne Sandberg said it’s been challenging for that part of roadway to balance heavy truck traffic with everyday local traffic.

Drivers typically wait up to two minutes just to get through the half-mile stretch between Meadow Grass and Hardwood avenues, Sandberg said.

The number of vehicles moving through the area during the day poses a concern from a safety standpoint for city officials. Throughout the years, traffic issues along 70th Street have included speeding and unlawful passing in turn lanes. A pedestrian death in 2013 highlighted safety issues.

“The bottom line is this road is not adequate for today’s traffic needs,” Cottage Grove City Council member Justin Olsen said. “It needs to be dealt with and (this traffic light) is another step, albeit temporary, in the process.”

Also, with the recent opening of the new bike park at West Draw Park, Olsen said he has concerns for families and young children from neighboring developments crossing the road.

Turn lanes near the intersection will be striped and an ADA-certified crosswalk will be installed. Crews will also repave the intersection to provide better vehicle rideability. The signal will also include a left-turn flashing yellow.

The joint project is estimated to cost around $300,000, with both the county and city bearing a portion of the cost. The city is expected to pay in just over $172,000, which will be a combination of state aid dollars and money from the street light utility fund.

While the traffic light is expected to be operational by mid-October, the county said it’s just a short-term fix before doing a complete overhaul of 70th Street in the future.

“The question is, what do we do in the interim?” Sandberg said.

Future plans include widening the road to four lanes and adding access to trails for better pedestrian crossing, he said.

In the long term, the county is looking at spending $22 million to $25 million to build a four-lane divided highway with center medians and retaining walls.

Olsen added that while the traffic light will make the intersection safer, he said until the long-term vision is realized, the overall impact will be minimal.

“I think the segment between the stop lights may see speeds slow down,” he said. “But the road needs to be widened and there needs to be substantial improvements and grading work done.”