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Rock Dell residents oppose speed increase

Rock Dell residents oppose speed increase
Deanna Bakken is fighting MnDOTs decision to raise the speed limit on the road in front of homes and businesses in Rock Dell.

As Deanna Bakken prepared to leave for work on a recent morning, she realized a startling change. All of the speed limit signs posted on the county highway in front of her Rock Dell Township house had jumped by 10 mph.

It didn't take long for the other neighbors to notice the change, which reflected a new 40-mph limit.

"All of us started congregating in our front yards saying, 'What's up with this? Did you see those signs?'" she said. "We were all surprised."

Bakken fears the speed increase could lead to serious accidents on the one-third-mile stretch of Olmsted County Road 3.

"We were already upset with speeding at the 30-mile speed limit," she said. "But instead of lowering it, they actually raised it."

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A public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Rock Dell Township Hall with Olmsted County Commissioner Matt Flynn, during which neighbors hope to convince Flynn to try to have the limit returned to 30 mph. Flynn could not be reached for comment Monday.

What led to the change? Olmsted County Engineer Mike Sheehan said the county requested in May 2010 that the Minnesota Department of Transportation conduct a speed study on County Road 3 in Rock Dell after the county had regraded, widened and resurfaced the road during the past decade.

MnDOT spokeswoman Kristine Hernandez said the speed survey looked at crash history, traffic volumes, road conditions and average vehicle speeds. MnDOT determined that 40 miles per hour was an appropriate speed and more accurately reflected the actual speed of drivers using the roadway.

But Bakken said customers at her family's business, Rock Dell Auto, already have trouble getting out of their angled, short driveway and onto the highway safely. She said a day-care center also is located along the highway. Since the road was widened, she said, traffic and speeding has increased dramatically.

"We have a new generation of young children playing out there and the road is even closer to our houses now that they widened it than when we were growing up," she said.

Records show there have been no documented accidents on the highway in the past five years.

So, what would it take to get the speed limit lowered? Sheehan said MnDOT would need to do another speed study that would support lowering the limit to 30 miles per hour. While that seems highly unlikely, Bakken said she is not giving up.

She said, "We want to know why anybody would decide to spend our taxpayers' money without looking into the fact that it's going to affect the people that live here."

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