Highway planning

Council reviews plans for outer expressway

By Jeffrey Pieters

Plans to improve two outlying Rochester roads have been favorably reviewed by the city council.

During Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting, council members heard proposals to begin planning for a new northwest expressway on 60th Avenue Northwest and to improve the traffic-handling capacity of Circle Drive.


Both proposals were endorsed last week by the Rochester-Olmsted Council of Governments, a consortium of local officials.

A proposed new northwest expressway would lie along what is now 60th Avenue and 75th Street Northwest, linking U.S. 14 and 52.

The four-lane expressway would have a 45-mph speed limit and stoplights every one-half mile.

Local governments will have to acquire 50 to 70 feet of right-of-way on each side of current streets for the new expressway, said Charlie Reiter, Olmsted County's senior transportation planner. Securing land now, as opposed to when it is more heavily developed, is intended to save government money in the long run.

Reiter said he plans to conduct a public meeting for affected landowners in October.

A separate but related proposal calls for upgrading Rochester's 16-mile-long Circle Drive corridor to handle the heavier traffic expected by 2025.

The proposal calls for installing more regularly spaced traffic signals and closing off some accesses -- including median accesses -- to streamline traffic flow.

Without improvements, by 2025, average speeds in some parts of the corridor are estimated to dip below 20 mph. Traffic would be especially sluggish where West Circle Drive crosses U.S. 52. With the improvements, it is estimated, the average speed in that area would be up to 75 percent faster.


The anticipated effect of the improvements varies by location along Circle Drive.

Shutting off driveways, open medians and other unmanaged accesses will allow Circle Drive to handle an additional 10,000 cars per day without affecting safety or speed.

Though the council gave favorable review to both proposals, the county board must also review them. Reiter said he will present both plans to the board later.

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