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Washington County to fix Keats Avenue/70th Street zig-zag

Washington County has started planning for a 2013 project that will realign the intersection of 70th Street and Keats Avenue in Cottage Grove. The county will also turn control of nearby Military Road over to the city after the project. Bulletin photo by Jon Avise

Washington County has begun planning on a long-scheduled road realignment project in Cottage Grove that will mean big changes on some busy roadways in 2013.

County transportation officials laid out plans last week to realign the tightly-spaced roadways of 70th Street (County Road 22), Keats Avenue (County Road 19) and Military Road (County Road 20), removing an all-way stop at the intersection of 70th and Keats.

Cory Slagle, Washington County's engineering and construction manager, said the estimated $2.5 million project is needed to prepare the area for an expected increase in traffic that will follow planned housing and commercial growth in the area.

County commissioners took the first step in moving the realignment and rehabilitation work forward last week, approving a more than $360,000 cost share agreement with the South Washington Watershed District for design services related to the project. The watershed district will construct regional drainage in the project area during the roadwork in 2013, Slagle said.

Currently, the busy arterial roadways carry thousands of vehicles each day, but meet at a congested intersection of unaligned roadways. For motorists traveling on the east- to-west-running 70th Street, a turn onto Keats, which runs north-south, is required before another stop sign and another turn to continue on 70th. Military Road meets Keats Avenue just north of the 70th Street intersection and runs northwest to Radio Drive.

Slagle said Washington County would turn Military Road over to the city of Cottage Grove following the improvements. The city, in turn, plans eventually to close Military Road to vehicle traffic, the city's administrator, Ryan Schroeder, said last week. Instead of vehicles traveling the old military supply route, the city of Cottage Grove envisions the roadway being repurposed as a recreational trail for walkers and bikers amidst the expected growth in the city's East Ravine area.

"When that part of town develops then we believe the trail use is actually the more appropriate from a historical perspective," Schroeder said, citing Military Road's genesis as a dirt cart path.

The eventual expansion of Ravine Parkway into a major thoroughfare on the city's east side is another reason for the future conversion, said Schroeder, who called Military Road "redundant" after the new parkway becomes heavily traveled.

"We wouldn't do that immediately. We would do that in concert with development," Schroeder said. "So if the development doesn't occur, access will continue to be provided."