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Cop Talk: What's with the intersection of 3rd and Nokomis?

I was recently approached by someone who wanted to know more about the intersection of 3rd Avenue East and Nokomis Street.

The person asked what was the intended purpose of some of the lanes in that intersection.

The question was focused primarily on the two left turn lanes from eastbound 3rd Avenue East onto northbound North Nokomis Street.

There has been some frustrations over what the purpose of these lanes are and the merging that needs to take place to continue northbound on North Nokomis Street.

In doing research on this intersection, there is a lot of information to be shared that will be beneficial to all that use that intersection.

Currently, south of 3rd Avenue East, there is one northbound lane and one southbound lane. North of 3rd Avenue East, there is one southbound lane and two northbound lanes that continue for a short time before merging into one lane. These two northbound lanes are just that, northbound lanes that were intended to relieve congestion on 3rd Avenue East.

As stated earlier, they do merge into one lane of travel that continues northbound. The outside northbound lane (east lane) can also be used to exit into the businesses at that intersection.

Minnesota state statute covers lane changes. MSS 169.18 Subd. 7 (a) states, "A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety."

MSS 169.19 Subd. 4 states, "Change of course. No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection unless the vehicle is in proper position upon the roadway as required in this section, or turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a highway unless and until the movement can be made with reasonable safety after giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided."

So, what does all that mean?

To merge traffic together, drivers need to be certain they are traveling in a safe manner and that when merging they are doing so in a way that doesn't endanger themselves or other drivers. This includes using the turn signal of the vehicle to indicate that a change of lanes is intended.

There is some good news in all of this.

The city engineering firm and the state of Minnesota have made plans to update this intersection in 2011.

These changes should help improve the traffic flow and decrease the congestion in this area. In 2011, Nokomis Street will be milled and overlayed with new pavement. After that, it will be restriped and there will be noticeable changes.

There will still be one southbound lane, but northbound traffic will change.

There will be two lanes of northbound traffic starting between 6th Avenue East and 5th Avenue East that will continue to go past the area of McDonald's. Between McDonald's and McKay Avenue, northbound traffic will be reduced back to one lane as traffic leaves Alexandria. The two-way left turn lane will still be in place as well.

The Alexandria Police Department and the Echo Press have teamed together to create "Cop Talk, Ask the Alexandria Police Department." Each article will feature an answer to a question from a reader, a safety tip or some timely topic. If you have a question about crime prevention or safety, send an e-mail to