NO LEFT TURNS ALLOWED exiting from Big Lake High School property onto Eagle Lake Road when school starts up in September. The new rule is to alleviate congestion and and is part of the county plan which changed traffic lane configurations. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

County re-thinking Eagle Lake Road plan

Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards
Concerns about the safety of cyclists and pedestrians has led to them being banned from Co. Rd. 5 in Big Lake.
Also known as Eagle Lake Road, Co. Rd. 5 is a major thoroughfare for traffic in the city of Big Lake. 
Two weeks ago, the county, after meeting with the City of Big Lake, Big Lake School District and the Big Lake Police Department, sought to alleviate the problem by restriping the road.
Before it was restriped, the center line ran down the middle of the road with two traffic lanes and wide shoulders.
Without seeking any input from the public or anyone who lives on Eagle Lake Road, two weeks ago, the county went ahead and restriped the road to remove the shoulders and create a center turn lane.
That was when the signs went up banning cyclists and pedestrians from using the road from Park Avenue to Martin Avenue. It was also when Big Lake residents realized what was being done and began calling their local, officials, including County Commissioner Ewald Petersen.
“I had 50 or 60 calls after the event,” he said. “We (county commissioners), authorized them going out for bids for striping the roads but they don’t give us the plan.”
A second meeting between the county public works department, the City of Big Lake and  the school district was called Monday. MnDOT was also invited to the table, Petersen said.
“They didn’t like it either and they gave us some different ideas,” he said. 
The result was the statement which appeared  this week. In part it read;
It was agreed by all parties that this portion of Eagle Lake Road will be restriped again as a three lane section, but will also include shoulders on both sides of the road. 
Two 12-foot lanes will be created for the northbound and southbound travel lanes. Also, a 12-foot continuous left turn lane will be created in between the two travel lanes. This will leave a three foot shoulder on each side of the road, which will provide a safer access to resident mailboxes.
Creating a continuous left turn lane will provide a safer road because it will eliminate drivers from passing on the right (shoulder) since the left turning traffic will have a separate lane for this movement. Congestion on this roadway will be reduced, making it a safer driving experience. Congestion on school traffic will also be reduced because of a change in vehicles exiting school property onto Eagle Lake Road. 
Left turns will no longer be allowed from school property onto Eagle Lake Road. Right turn only signs will be installed and the pavement will be marked with a right turn arrow.
Pedestrian and bicycle traffic between Martin and Park Ave will continue to be strongly discouraged due to safety concerns. 
To address the need for pedestrian access along Eagle Lake Road, the Big Lake School District will be offering bus service to students who live directly along Eagle Lake Road between Hwy. 10 and Park Ave West, to get them safely to school. 
The city and school district received a "Safe Routes to School Planning grant" from Mn DOT. Together with the community and county, these entities will work with a consultant to fully investigate the best solution for pedestrians/bikers to navigate this stretch of roadway to include the possible construction of a sidewalk. 
The addition of three-foot shoulders along Eagle Lake Road will be accomplished by initially seal coating this portion of the roadway to eliminate all previous lines. The seal coat will also improve the road surface until this road is resurfaced in 2016.
Constructing a trail from Glenwood on school property for students walking to school turn them out of harms way. 
The county has no plans to construct a sidewalk but this week the city received a Safe Route To Schools grant to plan for a sidewalk on Eagle Lake Road.
“This will take some input from everybody,” said Mayor Raeanne Danielowski. “Then we can apply for a grant to actually get the job done.”
“We had major concerns about someone getting run over on Eagle Lake Road,” said Big Lake Chief of Police Joel Scharf, who has fielded his share of phone calls on the matter in recent days. “This was decided by the county. “
Scharf said he would like to see sidewalks on Eagle Lake Road from Highline Drive south to Martin Avenue.
“If anything good comes out of this, it is that something will get done,” he said.
“We are doing what we can to get this right,” said School Safety Director Brad Schnitzler.
Attempts to reach County Engineer Rhonda Lewis this week went unanswered. 


Mike Zdychnec, Executive Program Director for Healthcare Management at MN School of Business. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

JEN SCHUMACHER (far left), applauds as 15-year-old Matthew Trutna wins the 2015 Team Liam 5K Saturday. (Photos by Jennifer Edwards).

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