Residents voice concerns with downsizing Broadway from a four- to three-lane road

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Some local residents are questioning the idea of turning South Broadway into a three-lane highway.

The residents voiced their concerns last week during an informational meeting with officials from the city of Albert Lea and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Steven Jahnke

Steven Jahnke

The residents who spoke out against the project questioned what the benefits of the project would be and whether flooding problems were going to get resolved first in the area.

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The idea to turn South Broadway into three lanes — including two driving lanes and a center turn lane from Main Street south to Seventh Street — came from nationally known transportation expert Dan Burden, who visited the community in January and offered multiple suggestions for the corridor. He looked at making the roadway safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists and said Albert Lea’s traffic counts did not warrant having four lanes of traffic.

Under the proposal, there would be two regular driving lanes and a center turn lane. Bike lanes would be on both sides of the street, and parking would be maintained.

The proposal comes as the Minnesota Department of Transportation is slated for a mill and overlay project this summer on Broadway from Main Street to Seventh Street. South Broadway south of Main Street is also U.S. Highway 65, which is maintained by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Changing the road from a four-lane roadway to a three-lane roadway equates to an additional $40,000 — for striping costs that would be paid for by the city.

Engineering firm Bolton & Menk Inc., which conducted a study into the plan, supported the proposal, said traffic engineer Bryan Nemeth.

He said with the three-lane road people might see travel time increase by a few seconds but speeds would decrease by about ] 1 mph.

Based on national statistics from other roads that went from a four-lane to a three-lane road, he said crashes would reduce an average of 29 percent. He described the corridor presently as “very unsafe.”

Resident Duane Vanderploeg questioned how this statistic was formed and said it should have focused on local data.

Resident Tom Ferleman asked whether the flooding in the area would get resolved before the road is redone.

City Engineer Steven Jahnke said the flooding issue would not be resolved before the project, and noted it would take $15 million to $20 million to fix that problem by putting in a new lift station that could handle larger capacity and putting in larger storm sewer line from Seventh Street all the way to Albert Lea Lake.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” Jahnke said.

He said MnDOT has supported changing Broadway to a three-lane roadway if the city chooses to do so.

Adam Wellner, traffic design engineer with MnDOT, said the department is seeing more and more four-lane roads being converted to three-lane roads and noted there are definitely safety benefits in doing so.

The Albert Lea City Council is slated to vote Monday whether to move ahead with the three-lane proposal.