A plan to improve safety on Diffley Road in Eagan where a 13-year-old boy was hit and killed by a car on his way to school includes slimming the number of lanes on the road and adding roundabouts.
The concept approved by the Dakota County Board calls for Diffley to be downsized from four lanes to two, divided by a median between Lexington Avenue and just east of Braddock Trail. It also includes roundabouts at two intersections and a new access road from Diffley to Northview Elementary and Dakota Hills Middle schools.
Pedestrian crossing signals and street lighting to improve vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle safety will be incorporated into the final design, according to the resolution passed Tuesday.
Some residents were disappointed with Tuesday’s action and said the plan doesn’t go far enough to address pedestrian safety.
Theresa Eisele, chairwoman of a neighborhood group called Pedestrian Advocacy Committee for Eagan (PACE), was pushing for intersections with stoplights at Daniel Drive and Braddock Trail. Roundabouts, she said, keep traffic moving and would not allow pedestrians time to cross safely, especially at school start and dismissal times. She also questioned how adding a new access road that students would have to cross would make things safer.
“This is a head scratcher,” Eisele said. “If this is about pedestrian safety, you don’t wait until the end to address that.”
The county, working with the city of Eagan and the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District, considered six objectives, including increasing pedestrian safety, raising driver awareness of the nearby schools, slowing traffic and reducing congestion. The concept featuring the roundabouts met all the criteria while installing stoplights met or partly met only half of them, said Kristi Sebastian, a traffic engineer with the Dakota County Transportation Department.
“With a roundabout, you have shorter distances to cross. You have fewer conflict points. You have one direction [of traffic] to deal with, then the next,” she said. “Roundabouts require drivers to slow down.”
Sebastian said the county will “absolutely” incorporate pedestrian safety suggestions collected during public meetings and on a recent walking tour of the area.
“There are concerns about those details, and we are not done,” she said.
Addressing safety along Diffley took on additional urgency after Patric Vitek was hit by a car and killed in November while biking to school.
The county will spend $525,000 on project design. The county has requested $4.6 million from the state for construction, which would begin in 2021. That money has yet to be secured.
Eisele said PACE will continue fighting against the concept.
“It confuses me on how they consider this safe,” she said.