Otsego concerned about proposed roundabout

by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter

Contributing writer

The Otsego City Council expressed concern at their meeting on March 11 over a roundabout Wright County is proposing at the intersection of 70th Street and Oakwood Avenue.

Wright County denied Otsego’s plan to leave the intersection similar to how it exists today, where motorists have to turn in order to continue traveling on 70th Street.

Officials at the Buffalo government center say that design is unsafe, especially in light of expected increases in traffic after a section is added to connect 70th Street all the way across the city.

Otsego City Planner Daniel Licht explained why the design of the intersection is out of the city’s hands.

“The county has jurisdiction because their road meets ours, and they have higher road authority because they’re the county,” he said.

City officials met with Wright County representatives last week to discuss a compromise and the group agreed that a roundabout would be the best alternative. The county would be responsible for two-thirds of the cost and the city of Otsego would pay one-third. A roundabout would also be cheaper overall because there is less pavement involved and less right-of-way to be obtained.

Council Member Vern Heidner expressed his concerns over putting a roundabout on a road with a 55 mph speed limit. He proposed a curved approach to the roundabout, which would force drivers to slow down before they entered the intersection. City staff is consulting with an expert in roundabouts to come up with the safest design.

The council was skeptical about the idea of a roundabout, but found the idea preferable to the county’s other proposal, which is a T-intersection. 70th Street doubles as CSAH 37 from CSAH 42 until the intersection with Oakwood Avenue, where CSAH 37 follows Oakwood Avenue southwest. The council and many residents who have provided feedback on the project are afraid that with a T-intersection, drivers would fly by the turn, never realizing that they aren’t still on CSAH 37, which leads to I-94.

“I know the residents won’t be in favor of a T-intersection,” said Mayor Jessica Stockamp, who was worried about the sudden change in plans because, she said, the city has been working hard to keep residents informed on every step of the project.

The intersection is a piece of a larger project to overhaul 70th Street from Martin Farms Avenue to TH 101. The city of Otsego has received funds to overhaul the road from Martin Farms Avenue to Oakwood Avenue, beginning in 2014. At Oakwood Avenue, 70th Street becomes CSAH 37, which is under Wright County’s jurisdiction. Wright County has also received funds to continue the road improvements from Oakwood Avenue to TH 101. Their project will begin in 2017.

In addition to improving the entire stretch of road, the project will add a section of 70th Street between Nadalia Avenue and Martin Farms Avenue where there’s not currently a road. This will turn 70th Street into an important connection between east and west Otsego in the southern portion of the city.

In other matters, the council held a public hearing to receive feedback from residents who will be affected by proposed storm sewer improvements to Needham Avenue, south of 85th Street. Many residents experience months of standing water on their properties every year.

The council will decide whether or not to proceed with the project at their next meeting on March 25.

The council agreed to proceed with a project to upgrade the storm sewer on LaBeaux Avenue, between 75th Street and 80th Street, and to pave the gravel road.