Plymouth City Council considers reducing Schmidt Lake Road to three lanes

Reducing Schmidt Lake Road from four lanes to three lanes was a topic of debate March 28 during the Plymouth City Council meeting.

The discussion was on the mill and overlay project slated for this summer. The project would include “minor” changes to pedestrian crossings along the stretch of Schmidt Lake Road from Peony Lane to Fernbrook Lane, including the elimination of a crosswalk at Yuma Lane, due to the proximity to the signal crossing at Vicksburg Lane, explained Jim Renneberg, city engineer.

The project also includes re-striping Schmidt Lake Road as a three-lane roadway as indicated in the city’s comprehensive plan. The three-lane roadway would include one lane of traffic in each direction, a center two-way left turn lane, as well as a 7-foot-wide shoulder on each side of the road. The roadway would, however, expand to four lanes at the intersections with Vicksburg Lane and Fernbrook Lane.

Current traffic levels, which average 5,800-8,300 vehicles per day, is acceptable for a three-lane roadway, Renneberg said, and below the recommended levels of 14,000-17,000. A two-lane roadway can withstand projected volumes of up to 10,000, he noted.
Replacing two lanes with center turning lanes could have safety benefits for motorists going into the neighborhoods along Schmidt Lake Road.

Councilmember Jim Prom did not support reducing the road to a three-lane roadway noting Schmidt Lake Road is a collector and receives more traffic than the average street, he said, adding he didn’t see the new striping as a safety improvement since motorists wouldn’t be able to pass other vehicles.

When asked why the entire roadway wouldn’t be three lanes, Renneberg explained that in those areas where four-lanes would remain, too much unused pavement would exist that would be striped for no driving. The fear, he said, is motorists may start using the additional roadway causing a potential safety hazard.

Installing medians and removing curb and gutter so as to remove pavement width would increase construction costs, Renneberg explained.

Keeping four lanes at the intersection would also move traffic through the intersection quicker, Councilmember Judy Johnson pointed out. Three lanes would also help traffic flow around Providence Academy before and after school, she also noted.

Councilmember Jeff Wosje reported driving along the stretch during rush hour and didn’t witness traffic levels warranting a four-lane roadway. Furthermore, Wosje expressed concerns related to excessive speeds and suggested reducing the roadway to three lanes would be a natural traffic calming measure.
“I’m having a hard time trying to understand why we would keep it a four-lane,” Wosje stated, noting the proposed elimination of the crosswalks.

Currently, there are three pedestrian ramps used to cross Schmidt Lake Road in close proximity to each other with two of the ramps on the south side at the intersection of Garland Lane and the third just west at the intersection of Holly Lane. Two can be eliminated without posing a significant inconvenience to pedestrians, according to Renneberg’s report.

Public Safety Chief Mike Goldstein shared his opinion in that three-lane striping “offers more safety options for the motoring public” by reducing rear collisions. In addition, it would provide a safer haven for people using the trail as well as bicyclists using the roadway, he noted.

Mayor Kelli Slavik said she was in support of keeping the road as four lanes, noting reducing lanes along a roadway can become confusing for the motoring public.

For the sake of keeping the project on schedule, the council approved the preliminary engineering report and requested an alternate bid be added to include the striping of four lanes, allowing the council more time to consider the proposed lane changes.

The council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the project, including the striping, during the Tuesday, May 23 council meeting, after conducting the public hearing for assessments.

The project is estimated at $1.18 million, with $25,995 in special assessments from the adjacent benefiting property owners. According to the current policy, this is 40 percent of the actual project costs, but not exceeding $1,000 per unit.

Construction is expected during the summer months, to avoid impact to school traffic at Providence Academy and Wayzata High School. Traffic and driveway access will be maintained on all streets during construction.

Contact Kristen Miller at [email protected]