Douglas Drive/Highway 55 Intersection

Even with traffic signals, vehicles on State Highway 55 through Golden Valley move fast going to and from Minneapolis. And nearly every morning during the school year, large groups of students who take public transportation are dropped off on the north side of Highway 55 at Douglas Drive and must dash across seven lanes of rush hour traffic to reach their high school, the state-funded Perpich Center for Arts Education. They often don’t make it all the way and spend the next traffic cycle perched on the small grass median between lanes of surging westbound and eastbound traffic. Or, they cross traffic without a protective crossing signal.

The intersection of Hwy 55 and Douglas Drive has significant congestion and confusing turning movements, bus stops, and a high level of pedestrian usage that has resulted in safety issues and a high number of vehicle crashes north and south of the highway. The south frontage road is too close to the highway and cannot store vehicles at the intersection, often resulting in queues up to a half mile long during rush hours. Many vehicles ignore posted stop signs and take chances to make the green light onto the highway. Combine this with a mix of pedestrians from local businesses and the Perpich school, as well as runners and bicyclists crossing the highway from the nearby popular Luce Line Regional Trail, and you have a recipe for disaster.

An Opportunity And A Solution

Over the next two years the City of Golden Valley has an opportunity to correct this problem as part of a joint project with Hennepin County to reconstruct Douglas Drive (County Road 102) between Hwy 55 and Medicine Lake Road (County Road 70).

To improve driver and pedestrian safety as well as traffic efficiency in this area, the City of Golden Valley began a study of the Douglas Drive corridor in 2008. The 2016–2017 reconstruction project will add turn lanes, allow for shoulders and bike lanes, improve sidewalks, install streetlights, and place existing aboveground utilities underground along the Douglas Drive corridor. The project has an estimated cost of about $23 million, with Golden Valley paying approximately $10 million and Hennepin County paying approximately $13 million.

However, these funds do not cover the costs for improving the problems at the intersection of Hwy 55 and Douglas Drive. As part of the preliminary design process for the Douglas Drive improvements, the City, County , and MnDOT have developed concepts to improve the Hwy 55/Douglas Drive intersection, arriving at a cost-effective and acceptable solution to all. Legislative funding in 2016 would allow intersection improvements to be built seamlessly with the reconstruction of Douglas Drive, with
less disruption to the community and regional commuters.

Proposed Improvements

  • Box culvert underpass across Hwy 55
  • Mini roundabout south of Hwy 55
  • Extended frontage road throat south of Hwy 55
  • Retaining wall construction
  • Underground utility relocation
  • Sidewalk and trail connections to existing facilities
  • ADA compliant facilities
  • Landscaping

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Total: $6 million

Project Summary

In 2016–2017, the City of Golden Valley and Hennepin County will reconstruct about 1.75 miles of Douglas Drive north of Hwy 55, including numerous pedestrian-friendly facilities (on-street bike lanes, off-street trails, off-street sidewalks) at a cost of $23 million. Major problems will still exist at the Hwy 55/Douglas Drive intersection because no funding is available to correct them:

  • Problem: Pedestrians must cross seven lanes of Hwy 55 traffic to reach businesses, schools, and other area amenities. Also, the Luce Line regional trail just north of Hwy 55 brings many
    recreational bikers, joggers, to the area.
  • Solution: A new underpass culvert crossing for pedestrians/ bikers would be ADA compliant and would connect the south frontage road to Douglas Drive (at location of new metro transit
    drop-off site), enabling safe passage for pedestrians and bikers.
  • Problem: The south frontage road is too close to Hwy 55, and vehicles don’t have room to queue at intersection. Significant back-ups occur, and it can take numerous signal cycles to get
    through.
  • Solution: Extending the throat of the intersection will provide more queuing capacity for vehicles at the intersection, thus moving more vehicles through in a shorter amount of time. A roundabout will eliminate the stop conditions at south frontage road and allow the intersection to quickly dissipate the queue.

It will cost an estimated $6 million to correct these problems. Funding from the State in 2016 would allow the City and County to coordinate the intersection project with the Douglas Drive project at significantly lower cost and less disruption to the driving public.