What are the project’s goals?
We heard from the community that this project needs to address the safety of people walking, biking, and driving along and across Hwy 47. We also heard that improvements to Hwy 47 should help create a sense of place rather than a high-speed passing zone. The proposed improvements (roundabouts, reduced lanes, landscaping, lighting, trails, curb and gutter, and raised median) are designed to slow traffic through St. Francis, increase safety for people using the road, and encourage drivers to be more attentive to their surroundings.
Is this project using federal funding to pay for the roundabouts?
Funding for MnDOT projects typically include a mix of sources, often including federal funds. The project funding source is not driving the selection of roundabouts or any of the other improvements proposed with the project. MnDOT is directly contributing to the cost of reconstruction the roadway, new curb and gutter, the roundabouts, roadway lighting at the roundabouts, trails on both sides of the road, and a portion of the desired aesthetics. The city and county are applying for grant funding to lower the local cost for city and county cost sharing of the roundabouts.
Why is MnDOT proposing 4 roundabouts on Hwy 47?
MnDOT’s goal is to address the concerns we have heard from the public for the entire corridor. We have heard that safety for people walking, biking, and driving is a concern, and vehicle speeds are too fast. To address these issues, any solution will need to be a corridor-wide solution and not just at one intersection. Building roundabouts at each intersection will keep traffic moving slowly, but smoothly, and allow people walking to cross the road safely. Roundabouts have many benefits, including:
- Easy for people walking and biking to cross
- Shorter distance exposed to traffic
- One direction of traffic to look for at a time
- Reduce wait time for vehicles at side streets
- Roundabouts are safer than standard intersections
- Slows traffic at intersections
- Allow for additional landscaping, signs, and other amenities to create a more urban feel that will help slow traffic down
- Turn lanes not required, allowing for further narrowing of the roadway (which cuts down on speeding and increases safety)
How do roundabouts increase safety for people walking and biking?
Roundabouts are designed to slow traffic, which in turn improves vehicle and pedestrian safety compared to signalized intersections. Research shows that roundabouts provide the following benefits:
- Lower traffic speeds allow more time for drivers and people walking and biking to react to one another
- Walkers/bicyclists only need to watch one direction of traffic at a time, which simplifies decision-making and reduces conflicts with vehicles
- Safety research shows that crashes at intersections are related to the number of locations people could possibly hit each other. Reducing the number of locations people can crash lowers the number of crashes. Roundabouts have a 67% decrease in locations where vehicles and people walking and biking could possibly hit each other
In addition to these safety benefits of roundabouts, reducing the number of lanes also reduces the crossing distance for people walking and biking. This means that people walking and biking are not exposed to several lanes of traffic and they spend less time crossing the road, increasing their safety.
Will I be able to see people walking and biking when driving through a roundabout?
Specific landscaping in the center of each roundabout is not yet determined, but MnDOT is committed to ensuring that people driving will see people crossing, and people crossing will see cars. MnDOT, in coordination with the city and county, is proposing many elements to help reduce speeds that will improve a driver’s ability to see and slow down for people crossing Hwy 47. These include: a raised median, reducing the number of lanes from two to one in each direction, adding curb and gutter throughout the corridor, landscaping, and building roundabouts. These combined improvements are designed to force traffic to drive slower through St. Francis and be more attentive to the surroundings. Additionally, roadway LED lighting will be installed at each roundabout to increase visibility for all users while crossing at the roundabout locations.
How did MnDOT engage with the community to decide on a concept?
MnDOT held and participated in several in-person and online public engagement activities to hear from the community their thoughts, concerns, and questions.
- Open house #1 on April 23, 2019: Listening session to better understand the community’s issues and priorities
- May 22, 2019 and October 3, 2019: Business open houses to hear from businesses along the corridor
- Open house #2 on September 29, 2019: Presentation of four concept alternatives, including a pedestrian underpass option
- May 30, 2019: St. Francis Bike Rodeo
- June 8, 2019: St. Francis Pioneer Days
- Oct. 3, 2019: In school lunch time Q & A with students and staff at the St. Francis Middle and High Schools
- Oct. 12, 2019: Fire Department Pancake Breakfast
- June 6, 2019 and October 17, 2019: Senior Lunch Presentations
- Sept. 16, 2019 and October 23, 2019: City Council Work Sessions
- Sept. 23, 2019: St. Francis School Board Work Session
- Sept. 30, 2019: Anoka County Transportation Committee Meeting
Online surveys open to all stakeholders:
- Online survey #1 was available from April 23 – May 10, 2019 and asked questions related to visioning and prioritizing outcomes for the future of Hwy 47
- Online survey #2 was available from Sept. 20 – Oct.10, 2019 and asked questions related to the four proposed concepts and pedestrian underpass
- One-on-one business outreach via phone to survey business owners about their thoughts on roundabouts on Hwy 47 in Oct. 2019
- Social media updates, website updates, city and school board newsletters, direct business mailers, and press releases were used to notify community members of upcoming open houses, events, and ways to participate in the project
Why is MnDOT not proposing a pedestrian tunnel?
A pedestrian tunnel was proposed at the two prior open houses as well as at community meetings/events as an option that MnDOT could build as part of this project. However, we did not hear a strong desire from the community that it was wanted and concerns were brought up about personal safety, maintenance, and it not being used.
Are traffic signals an option if the City paid for them?
Traffic signals do not meet the project goals of increasing safety for people walking and biking and slowing down traffic. Research shows that traffic signals are ineffective and even counterproductive if the goal is to make a road safer and slow traffic. Safety research shows that:
- While traffic signals help guide the flow of traffic at an intersection, they have a risk of increasing the number of crashes where people suffer severe injuries
- Vehicles can travel at higher speed through signalized intersections than roundabouts. High speed crashes increase the risk of death and severe injuries
- Signalized intersections have more locations crashes can occur than roundabouts
- Signalized intersections have a greater number of crashes and more severe crashes like right angle (T-bone) and left-turning crashes compared to roundabouts
- Vehicles that speed up to make a yellow light or that run a red light can create unsafe situations for people driving, walking and biking through the intersection
Additionally, Hwy 47 is a MnDOT road. There are criteria called warrants that MnDOT follows for installing permanent traffic signals. The criteria are mostly related to traffic volumes, but also factor in safety and driver expectation. None of the intersections on Hwy 47 meet the criteria; therefore, traffic signals are not an option regardless of how they would be paid for.