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Get ready for another Highway 21 debacle. It hasn’t been widely discussed or publicized, but the County’s 2015 work plan calls for closing Main Avenue at Highway 21. City hall has kept mum on the subject, but it will no doubt appear on the council’s agenda, probably after the November elections. What’s certain, though, is that If Main is closed, downtown businesses and the community will be the losers.

Three years ago city staff spent upwards of $100,000 on a consultant study that proposed to reroute Highway 21 through the Pleasant Street neighborhood at a cost of more than a dozen homes and several million taxpayer dollars. When this failed, it went ahead with an alternate plan to reconstruct the Highway 21-Arcadia intersection and extend Arcadia to Colorado. Then, in late 2012, still more money was spent on a consultant and a proposal to extend Arcadia through a wetland all the way to Highway 13 so a developer could put up a drug store and shopping center on the Diggers property. Recently, city staff, again, tried to include an Arcadia to Pleasant Street extension in the city’s long-range downtown plan.

There’s more, here, than meets the eye, but somewhere in all this I suspect there’s a developer and others, in cahoots with city hall, that see all this as an opportunity to make money at someone else’s expense, not unlike what’s happening to the homeowners on Rolling Oaks Circle.

A traffic signal at Main and another signal at Duluth makes the most sense and would be the least disruptive to downtown businesses, but traffic engineers claim it won’t work because Main is too close to Highway 13. Maybe they should look at the thriving business center at 50th and France in Edina where multiple signals, less than a block apart, control vehicle movement in an area with narrowed roadways and heavy bike and pedestrian traffic?

Nothing personal, because I think its in their DNA, but it’s been my experience, in working with a few of them, that traffic engineers, as a group, are perfectionists who are too narrowly focused on moving automobiles to the exclusion of everything else, and that they will reject anything that doesn’t fit with their preconceived standards and calculations. However, they do know how to follow orders, and I’d bet the County engineers would come around, if the Prior Lake City Council took a firm stand opposing the closure of Main Avenue at 21.

Perhaps city council candidates should study this issue and be asked for their position before next fall’s election?

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