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Top five traffic trouble spots in Alexandria

Alexandria Police Sergeant Kevin Guenther at 50th Avenue and Highway 29. This intersection was voted “most frustrating.” MnDOT will reconstruct the intersection during 2015-2016. 1 / 5
Alexandria Police Officer Jason Rosha at the Highway 29 and North Nokomis Street merge.2 / 5
Alexandria Police Officer Ryan Cook at 3rd Avenue and Nokomis Street. 3 / 5
Alexandria Police Officer James Ross at Walmart Drive (frontage road) in front of Doolittle’s, KFC, OfficeMax, Walmart.4 / 5
Alexandria Police Officer Burt Crary along McKay Avenue.5 / 5

Editor’s note: Traffic can be frustrating so we’re having a bit of fun with this article, but please know, safety is of utmost importance on our roads. Drive safely, be patient and always obey traffic laws.

0 Talk about it

The bliss of living in a small town like Alexandria is avoiding nightmare traffic jams like commuters encounter daily in the Twin Cities.

However, if you’re a local, it’s likely you know just how frustrating certain intersections can be during certain times of the day right here in Alexandria.

For example, if you’re driving north on Broadway and you take a right to go east onto 3rd Avenue, but the person in front of you stops/yields instead of rolling with traffic like they’re supposed to – admit it, you’ve yelled, mumbled or at least thought: What the heck? Why are you stopping??!!?! HONK! HONK! Just gooooooooo!!!

That’s just one of several intersections of frustration for local drivers. We asked readers to list the top traffic trouble spots in town and we were swamped with their gripes and there were grumbles about intersections from 50th Avenue to North Nokomis.

We feel your pain out there on the pavement so here’s our official list of the “Top Five Traffic Trouble Spots” in Alexandria, listed from least to most frustrating.

To make it official, we asked Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels to weigh-in on our list.

#5 McKay Avenue

There are several intersections along McKay Avenue that drew complaints and concern from our readers and apparently it’s a complaint the police department hears about, too.

Wyffels said, “People who call about McKay Avenue, their concern is that people drive too fast. Actually, McKay Avenue is one of those avenues where we’re fairly aggressive with enforcement efforts and we will continue to do so, and it’s mostly because of [Discovery Middle School].”

Further to the south on McKay Avenue, at the Woodland Elementary School entrance, Wyffels said the concern is the fairly fast speed, 50 miles per hour, on that stretch of road.

“If we could reduce the speeds, it would help,” Wyffels said. “It gives people time to make a decision.”

The intersection at 6th Avenue East and McKay is also a tricky one to maneuver. It’s a two-way stop with limited visibility and can be a risky one to cross during busy traffic times.

#4 Frontage road in front of Doolittle’s, KFC, OfficeMax, Walmart

Where do we begin with this one? The deteriorating road condition and traffic backups are frustrating along this business frontage road, named Walmart Drive.

Traffic backs up on the frontage road and 44th Avenue as drivers try to cross or turn out onto Highway 29.

“It’s all part of that chaos up there,” Wyffels said. “It seems to be a little bit of an engineering flaw, an underestimate of the number of people using the retail businesses in that part of town, all those people trying to come out at the same spot. It seems to be a little out of control.

“The good news: The fender benders we have had there are not at high speeds,” Wyffels said.

#3 3rd Avenue and Nokomis Street

During the morning and afternoon peak drive times, 3rd Avenue East and Nokomis Street is a busy, bustling intersection.

It’s also a main thoroughfare through town and it can get jammed up pretty quickly when someone tries to make a left turn into Elden’s.

In particular, it’s those pesky left turns that backs up traffic most and bumps up drivers’ blood pressure. However, according to State Trooper Jesse Grabow, it’s legal to make a left turn there; the double yellow road striping is to prohibit passing.

The key is to be patient or take an alternate route.

“There’s no question there are some issues there,” Wyffels said. “It’s the same thing on 2nd Avenue when [drivers are] trying to get out onto Nokomis Street.

“Second Avenue, I would think, has helped Elden’s a lot because you can come in the back way,” the chief added.

#2 Highway 29 and North Nokomis Street merge

There has been an abundance of frustration at this intersection lately.

Recently, a yield sign went up where North Nokomis Street merges with southbound Highway 29 traffic.

However, some North Nokomis drivers are not yielding; rather, they’re merging and pushing their way right into Highway 29 traffic that has the right of way.

You need to yield, people.

Allow us to clarify what a yield sign means, right from the Minnesota Driver’s Manual: A yield sign means “Slow down or stop, if necessary. Give the right of way to all other vehicles and pedestrians, and wait until it is safe to proceed.”

That means North Nokomis drivers may have to stop and wait until there’s an opening in southbound Highway 29 traffic.

P.S. If you’re “that guy” two inches off the bumper of the driver yielding, chill out.

#1 50th Avenue and Highway 29 

Good grief, this intersection perhaps best illustrates how our little town has grown… and continues to do so.

It’s a mess out there during peak traffic times. Some lanes yield, some don’t. Accesses to businesses are numerous and turning in can get tricky. Plus, making a left out onto 50th can be downright scary.

“I’m very concerned [about this area], particularly when the high school opens,” Wyffels said.

“That part of our town, in my opinion, is the worst part of our city [for traffic],” the police chief said. “There is so much traffic out there and so much confusion about accesses to businesses all being like right in that corner.”

However, there’s hope for this traffic trouble spot.

There are big changes coming during 2015-2016.

MnDOT will reconfigure and reconstruct Highway 29 at the intersections of 50th Avenue, Interstate 94 and County Road 28.

In particular, at “frustrating 50th” the traffic signal system will be replaced and concrete medians will be installed in all directions at the Highway 29/50th Avenue intersection.

To the south, the interstate overpass bridge will be replaced and a roundabout will be installed at County Road 28.

So, you know what that means… traffic in this area will be even more frustrating during construction.

Prepare to wear your patient pants during your commute in this area.

ONE MORE…

The police chief also pointed out one other area of concern in town that didn’t make our Top 5 list: pedestrians crossing 3rd Avenue East, between Broadway and Nokomis.

Wyffels said, “I get the feeling that pedestrians take their life in their own hands to get across that road. I’m concerned about that.”

There’s a plan in the works to make at least one intersection safer for pedestrians to cross. The Alexandria City Council has asked the state to place a pedestrian refuge island in the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Kenwood Street, which could also include flashing lights and special signing. The project is slated to take place next year.

Wyffels said his pedestrian concerns also hold true for people crossing Broadway without the semaphore or traffic light.

“We try to enforce those issues but it just seems to not go away,” he said.

What’s your local traffic gripe? Share it online at www.echopress.com.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133
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