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In Evergreen, it's 28 versus 44 feet

A much needed road reconstruction project is drawing opposition to some of the proposed elements that may change the character of one of Woodbury’s oldest neighborhoods.

The city is planning to redo a few central areas including streets of Evergreen and Whispering Pines and Currell Boulevard and Tamarack Road this summer for a total of $6.7 million.

Though Evergreen residents applaud the city for taking a proactive approach in fixing aging infrastructure, they’re not so excited about narrowing streets from 44 to 28 feet.

Narrowing residential streets is a traffic calming technique engineers use to slow down traffic.

The city conducted a speed study on Tamberwood Trail and Pinehurst Road and found drivers going as fast at 45 mph and 36 mph, engineer John Brandford said.

Woodbury police officer Scott Melander said he did 90 traffic stops resulting in 75 citations and 15 warnings in the Evergreen neighborhood from May to October of 2012.

“About 5.6 citations per hour, which is relatively high,” he said.

He added that 13 crashes caused by speed also took place in the neighborhood during that time.

Studies show there is a 5 percent chance of fatality if a pedestrian is hit at 20 mph. The odds increase to 45 percent on 30 mph streets and jump to 85 percent when hit at 40 mph, Melander explained.

“If a pedestrian is hit, you’re looking at a high expectation that that person could die,” he said. “So speed does matter and there is plenty of vehicles traveling in excess of 30 mph in this area.”

Woodbury City Council held a public hearing on the proposed road rehabilitation project Wednesday that drew a full house where numerous residents spoke in opposition to narrowing the wide streets.

Roger Smith, who has lived in the Evergreen neighborhood for nearly 30 years and served on the homeowners association in the past, said the original developer’s plan was to build 32 foot wide streets.

But city officials at the time told developers the plans wouldn’t be approved unless they change to 44 feet.

“That’s how the streets got to that width,” Smith said, adding that homeowners were then required to pay for larger lots to accommodate the design. “It’s pretty ironic that we’re having to discuss this.”

Smith said narrower streets would change the aesthetics of Evergreen during a time the neighborhood continues to compete with new developments for potential homebuyers.

The city is also considering adding an eight-foot wide trail to connect to the neighborhood park.

But Smith said the homeowners association may be willing to pay to maintain a five-foot sidewalk instead of a wider trail that would be the city’s responsibility.

Brenda Sauro said narrowing the road is not the only option and urged the city to look into alternative traffic calming measures.

Evergreen is nestled between two major city roads, Tamarack Road and Radio Drive, where speed limits are 40 and 50 mph.

There are only two speed limit signs as drivers enter the neighborhood and exit, but nothing in between on the entire stretch proposed to be narrowed as part of the project, Sauro said.

“Simply narrowing the road does not achieve the calming effect,” she said. “What has been shown to work in other communities is actual signage.”

City Council did not close the public hearing, which means it will continue at the Wednesday, March 19 meeting. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to continue giving feedback on the project.

A neighborhood meeting will also be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12 at Central Park.

For more comments from the meeting, see the Wednesday, March 5 Woodbury Bulletin.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.