The Forest Lake Area School Board discussed the new roundabout project at the intersection of State Highway 97 and Goodview Avenue during the board’s Oct. 24 meeting.
The project is designed to increase pedestrian safety, improve traffic safety and relieve congestion at the intersection, which is just north of both Forest Lake Area High School and Forest Lake Area Middle School. In addition to the roundabout, project plans also include a pedestrian trail that will parallel Highway 97 and pedestrian crossings at each leg of the intersection.
“The city and [the Minnesota Department of Transportation] have been hard at work for the last two, maybe three, years looking at Goodview and 97 and trying ways to ease congestion, but also to deal with pedestrian safety in relation to that intersection,” Superintendent Steve Massey said. “We’re nearing the construction phase for that project.”
Current plans for pedestrian crosswalks around the roundabout will include rectangular rapid flashing beacons on the pedestrian signs at the roundabout, which would be the first such lights installed at a roundabout intersection in the state.
“They do have a high rate of success, and that’s why we’ve implemented them and MnDOT is pushing us to have them,” City Engineer Ryan Goodman told the board. Initial plans for the pedestrian crosswalk lights saw only two sets being placed at two legs of the intersection, but Goodman said that MnDOT is now pushing for four to be incorporated at each of the legs. It is an added cost, Goodman said, and that’s why initial plans were just for two.
“Now they’re on us to potentially require four,” Goodman said. “Project costs are much higher than we planned for originally, but those safety improvements are worth [the added cost].”
“The roundabout and that pedestrian crossing and walkway addition, those are significant improvements to student and pedestrian safety,” Massey said.
So far, total costs for the project are estimated to be over $4 million. The city of Forest Lake is using three years of its state aid funds for the project and is also in the process of obtaining local bonding. Because of the increasing cost of the project, the city asked the district to donate an easement of the district’s property, which the board unanimously approved. The estimated value of the property easement would be $125,400.
The construction phase could start as early as March, but it is likely to begin around May, Goodman said.
Plans for the future also call for a pedestrian bridge, which would be ADA compliant, to go over Highway 97. This isn’t in the current plan due to cost concerns, but Forest Lake Mayor Mara Bain said the city was working on other funding possibilities, including a state bonding package.
“I would love to see a bridge at the intersection, but where we’re at currently, we’re just not able to do it on our own,” Bain said.
Scheduling for the upcoming construction will likely impact both the end of the 2019-2020 school year and the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. The city has made rebuilding the intersection a priority since 2016, when Forest Lake Area High School student Katya Loahr was hit and killed by a vehicle as she crossed 97. The four-way intersection’s lack of right-angle turns makes visibility difficult for drivers turning left at the intersection.