Council to look into changes on Lakeshore Drive

Published 10:00 pm Monday, July 9, 2018

Should speed control measures, signage be added on roadway?

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday voted to further evaluate possible changes on Lakeshore Drive, a road that residents have expressed safety concerns over.

Councilors voted 5-1 to direct staff to present options they can evaluate, which could include implementing speed control measures or signage.

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Mayor Vern Rasmussen and councilors Al “Minnow” Brooks, Reid Olson, Rich Murray and Larry Baker voted yes. Third Ward Councilor Jason Howland voted no. Fifth Ward Councilor Robert Rasmussen was not at the meeting.

Council action came four days after a study by the city of Albert Lea was released reportedly finding Lakeshore Drive is a relatively safe place for motorists and pedestrians.

Residents last month expressed support for installing a gate in the neighborhood to prevent speeding motorists from striking pedestrians.

Albert Lea resident Lee Wiese said Monday she does not want the road to be closed but noted recreational use of Lakeshore Drive increased after the founding of the Blue Zones initiative.

She said the traffic study took place June 20 to 22, days that included torrential rains, limiting the number of cars on the road.

Engineering staff placed traffic counters at three places to obtain traffic counts and speed data.

Though 85 percent of motorists in the study traveled less than 20 mph, Wiese questioned how many were traveling faster than the 15 mph speed limit.

Wiese suggested increasing the police presence in the area, implementing signage to note the road’s use by pedestrians, stating the road is not for through traffic and noting the city’s Blue Zones status.

Albert Lea police also performed 20 directed patrols along Lakeshore Drive between June 12 and July 28.

“The Police Department did issue a number of warnings as part of their directed patrols,” said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams in a report. “It is also a very low volume roadway with less than 200 vehicles per day.”

Police evaluated the four-year crash history on Lakeshore Drive and reportedly found “one minor crash along the street that involved one vehicle backing into another,” Adams said.

Howland suggested councilors end the investigation into the safety of the road based on the study’s findings.

“It seems like we’re trying to solve a problem that really isn’t there,” he said.

Howland said though he understands homeowners want access to the road limited because of speed concerns, such problems exist throughout the city. He suggested law enforcement conduct extra patrols to address speed concerns.

Brooks said though action may not be taken on the road, he wanted to see options.

Howland said changing the road could open “a can of worms” if residents express concern about other roads in town, leading to increased city staff resources.

Olson said the issue has been addressed in other areas of the city in his 12 years on the council.

The council voted to install permanent stop signs at the intersection of Frank Hall Drive and Eighth Street in May 2017 after 8-year-old Sophie Stultz was struck and killed at the intersection while riding her bike in July 2016.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a conditional use permit for food processing company AmTech to build a new drying facility at 517 Adams Ave.The Albert Lea Planning Commission unanimously recommended approving the application June 26.

• Were given an update on Stables area funding.

“The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has recently approved the application to provide sewer and water to the Stables area,” Adams said. “The project is now eligible for low-interest loans and grants. This is the last step in what has been a multiple-year project of receiving funding for the Stables area project.

“The city, township and residents will be meeting in the near future to discuss in annexation and construction processes. The city’s goal is to have the annexation completed, project bid and funding received in 2018 so the project construction can proceed first thing in 2019.”

• Voted to continue inflow and infiltration inspections, applying a $50 a month charge to properties that have not had an inspection or have a cross connection. The move is meant to eliminate storm sewer discharges into the sanitary sewer system. The 105 properties have until Jan. 1 to either remove the cross connection or have the inspection completed. 

In 1999, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency required the city to address the inflow and infiltration of its sanitary sewer system.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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