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Road project takes aim at Afton’s big ‘Y’

Washington County held an open house for the County Road 21 reconstruction project, occurring in 2016, on March 27 at Memorial Lutheran Church. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

Even though reconstruction of Afton’s County Road 21 is still two years out, its residents and business owners already have specific views of what they want to see from the project.

“I want to make the road look really unique and inviting,” said Stan Ross, president of the Afton Historical Museum.

Washington County held an open house on the project, proposed to begin in 2016, on March 27 at Memorial Lutheran Church in Afton.

The project

The County Road 21 reconstruction project came about for several reasons, said Cory Slagle, transportation manager for Washington County, including deteriorating pavement and drainage issues.

The project’s timing coincides with the city of Afton’s proposed improvements to the downtown area, with its levee and sanitary sewer projects, Slagle said.

Washington County’s goals for the rebuilding project include improving safety and accessibility for all modes of transportation; constructing a drainage system to address localized flood and water quality maintaining and enhancing the character of Afton; and minimizing property impacts while developing a cost effective solution.

So far, officials have decided to realign the “Y”at  St. Croix Trail and Stagecoach Trail for safety and mobility, to add turn lanes on St. Croix Trail at Afton Boulevard and Stagecoach Trail and to minimize the width of lanes and shoulders.

The purpose for redesigning the “Y” intersection, Slagle said, is that it proves to be difficult for large vehicles – school buses, fire trucks, boat trailers, horse trailers – to turn.

County Road 21 will continue to be a two-lane road, Slagle said.

Things to consider

Several options are still being considered including: “T” intersection versus a roundabout at St. Croix Trail and Stagecoach Trail; on-street parking locations; sidewalks on both sides of the road; sidewalk extensions and key pedestrian crossings; and raised medians verses no medians.

“There’s a whole mishmash of sidewalks out there,” Slagle said.

Additional amenities being considered include: roadway and median landscaping; burying overhead utilities; street and pedestrian lighting; decorative sidewalks, cross walks and curb extensions; and aesthetics to enhance and promote Afton’s character.

Afton City Council signaled support during a March 26 workshop for the “T” intersection over a roundabout.

“My gut tells me that most people don’t want a roundabout,” Council Member Bill Palmquist said. “That doesn’t feel like Afton in a way.”

Additionally, council members said they were in support of adding turn lanes.

“As long as the turn lanes are there, I think it works better for all of the boat traffic that comes through there,” Council Member Joe Richter said.

Ross, a County Road 21 Task Force member, said his primary goal for the road project is to make the road an inviting place and to slow traffic down.

“The museum depends on having that traffic flow,” he said, “and I want people to slow down so they can see the museum.”

Even though speed is a factor being considered, Slagle said he believes some of the road narrowing options will help address speed issues.

“Some of those things will make drivers feel like they want to slow down,” he said. “We hear about speed on every county road.”

Another concern, Ross said, is how the actual construction project will affect Afton’s summer festivals.

“There’s no way we’re going to turn the switch off on the Fourth of July,” he said.

Next steps

Some of the next steps for the County Road 21 project are to: review community input; select the design; refine the design and determine construction impacts; determine potential amenities; and review the project with the community.

Currently the timeline is looking at selecting the design in 2014, seeking plan approval in 2015 before beginning construction in 2016.  The project is expected to be completed within one construction season.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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