City holds Q & A on pedestrian overpass

MARSHALL – Marshall residents spoke up with questions and concerns about a planned pedestrian overpass at an informational meeting held Monday night at the Marshall-Lyon County Library. Both city staff and a representative of the Minnesota Department of Transportation were present to answer questions and talk about the overpass and reduced conflict intersection at the intersection of Saratoga Street and Minnesota Highway 23. Local residents shared comments both against and in favor of the $5.7 million project.

Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson and Cal Brink of the Marshall Area Transportation Group started out the meeting by going over plans for a reduced conflict intersection and pedestrian overpass at the Saratoga/23 intersection.

“This is one of the projects we identified more than a decade ago for safety improvements,” Olson said.

The reduced conflict intersection is meant to cut down on the number of right-angle crashes at the intersection, while the overpass gives cyclists and pedestrians a safe way to cross Highway 23, Olson said. The overpass, which would have an 1,800-foot span, would be designed to be both wheelchair-accessible and aesthetically pleasing, Brink said.

MnDOT traffic engineer Ryan Barney said Highway 23’s status as an inter-regional corridor means there are certain standards MnDOT follows in controlling traffic flow and access from side streets. For Highway 23, those standards include an average travel speed of 55 miles per hour, and limited delays to traffic flow like stop signs or lights.

“We don’t really use traffic signals for safety,” Barney said. He said traffic lights are used more to create “gaps” in traffic to let side street traffic through. Barney said MnDOT had evaluated the Saratoga/23 intersection in the past, and considered options like a four-way stop, traffic lights and a roundabout. “The reduced conflict intersection was the most appropriate,” he said.

“One of the things (affecting) safety is speed,” said Marshall resident Dave Bero. Bero asked why the speed limit on 23 couldn’t be reduced in Marshall, instead of changing the Saratoga intersection. Barney said MnDOT had studied the highway when the city of Marshall requested a speed reduction in the past.

“One large influencer (on speed) is what speed most people are comfortable driving at,” Barney said. Highway 23 in Marshall is a wide, rural, divided highway that encourages people to drive faster. Lower posted limits likely wouldn’t change their behavior, he said.

Resident Marcia Ivers questioned why the pedestrian overpass was planned on the west side of Saratoga Street.

“You’re having people cross Saratoga on both ends,” to use the overpass, she said.

The east side of Saratoga had conflicts with existing buildings and power lines, Olson said. He said there would be crosswalks at both entrances to the overpass.

One local resident living in the Carr addition said he was in favor of the overpass and intersection project to improve safety, and urged the city to “do it as fast as you can.” At the same time, however, he hoped some kind of safety measures would be taken at the intersection of Windstar Street and U.S. Highway 59 for traffic detouring around the construction.