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Royal Oaks residents raise red flag over traffic safety

Queens Drive, shown here as attendees arrived for the 2012 Woodbury High School homecoming parade, is one of two streets that Royal Oaks community members say has become troublesome due to traffic volume and speeding. (Bulletin file photo)

One Woodbury neighborhood is taking matters into its own hands to make streets safer and more comfortable for residents.

An action group is forming in Royal Oaks to address the growing traffic and safety issues on Queens Drive and Courtly Road, kicking off their efforts with a meeting last Sunday.

“The neighborhood has suffered from this traffic for a long time and it is getting worse,” said Susan Racine, who’s lived in Royal Oaks since 1982 and is leading the action group.

Residents’ main concerns are Queens Drive and Courtly Road, two connector roads that flow traffic from nearby shopping centers as well as Woodbury High School, churches, a movie theater, parks and day cares.

Many drivers often use those two streets as shortcuts to avoid traffic lights on main roads, Racine said, which brings them through the neighborhood more often than desired.

Racine said she and other neighbors approached the city in the past to address high traffic volumes and speeding issues, but nothing was ever done.

“We feel it’s a deterrent to property sales along Queens, we feel it’s a safety hazard for the kids going to and from school,” she said, “and now we have a number of retirees who like to walk.”

But Woodbury engineers say they receive complaints about traffic from just about every neighborhood in the city. Oftentimes, they respond with studies to gather data required before making any changes.

In this case, Engineering and Public Works Director Klayton Eckles said the city has received previous requests to look at issues in that general area, but they didn’t warrant any changes. Specific issues regarding those streets aren’t currently on the radar, he added.

“Whenever we get a request for a comment about a traffic issue, we start by getting some real data,” Eckles said. “One of the issues we have is oftentimes there is a perception that traffic is actually going faster than it is. Speeding is probably our most common complaint.”

And not just in Royal Oaks. He said it’s an issue that residents from many neighborhoods bring up.

But Royal Oaks residents decided this time they’d form the action group and assign tasks to the various members participating. They plan to meet with area school officials to redirect traffic, and work with the neighborhood church and day cares to get a better handle on schedules.

At least a dozen residents are committed to addressing the issue, Racine said, with some allegedly experiencing property damage as a result of the speeding problem and drivers cutting through the neighborhood.

Eckles said Queens Drive and Courtly Road are in fact higher volume roads identified as collector roads that flow traffic. But if traffic is blocked off through there, it would have to go elsewhere.

However, most of the neighborhood traffic is about 80 percent residents and 20 percent outside drivers using the streets to get to businesses, schools and retail areas.

“We met the enemy and the enemy is us,” he said. “We drive through our neighborhoods and we drive through neighborhoods that aren’t ours. As drivers, we aren’t always respectful and courteous.”

The city has tackled speeding and traffic volume problems in various neighborhoods in the past with education, traffic calming techniques and narrower roads during reconstruction.

But Royal Oaks residents are fed up because they haven’t seen much change since bringing up the issues a few years ago, Racine said.

“All we hear is this isn’t possible, this isn’t possible,” Racine said, “but nothing about ‘how can we be safer?’”

The group is recommending a few ideas to address the problem including: extending a sidewalk, adding marked crosswalks, police patrol and four-way stop signs, in addition to efforts with community partners.

“At this time, some solutions could come through the city of Woodbury,” Racine said. “It would take a group request and diligent work and follow through with the city engineer and maybe the city council to accomplish any changes.”

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.
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