Sweeny’s Saloon has a parking lot across Dale Street from the bar. While COVID-19 might reduce the bar’s crowding, it should not prevent safety improvements!
My parents and I live relatively close to each other, only about a 3 block walk separates my apartment and their townhome. As such, when my printer is giving me issues or they need someone to watch their dog, we will often walk between our homes. Because of the short distance, often the biggest barrier we face when visiting each other is crossing Dale Street.
Dale Street between Selby Avenue and Grand Avenue is 40′ wide and has 4 lanes of through-traffic, commonly referred to as a “four lane death road”. The reason for this term became clear to me after two recent experiences with drivers on Dale Street while I crossed on foot. In fact, they both occurred on the same day.
Around 12:30 or 1:00, I was crossing Dale Street heading west. I was taking my parent’s dog for a walk. I waited for northbound traffic to end and southbound traffic would have a clear line of sight to begin my crossing. As I neared the centerline of the roadway, a commercial van legally yielded the right-of-way for me. I continued crossing and then saw the van jerk forward and to the right, and saw a black SUV as its driver slammed on its brakes. The commercial driver had just blocked the SUV and its driver from passing it on the right and possibly running me over! The commercial driver was very upstanding and even chewed out the SUV driver for being a “moron” who “could have killed him.” After I finished my crossing, I waved thank you to the commercial driver and he gave me a quick “toot toot” on his horn.
Around 4:00, I was again walking west back to my place, this time sans dog. Again, I waited for a break in traffic to start my crossing, and as I was passing through the northbound lanes I heard a car flooring it from the intersection of Dale Street and Selby Avenue. A silver sedan was approaching quickly. I stopped on the centerline and stared straight at the driver, who did not change path or even look at me. I stepped back and the driver flew by so quickly my hair part changed location and my pant legs audibly fluttered. With no one else behind him, I finished my crossing and went home.
Big Whoop/So What?
Dale Street is 4-lanes which creates a turbulent traffic flow and invites aggressive and unpredictable driving behavior. As drivers turn left into various alleys, driveways and cross-streets those following them swerve into the next lane to continue going straight without delay. Additionally, the extra lane provides roadspace which allows drivers to go faster with less regard for their surroundings. Combined, this makes for a dangerous situation for pedestrians. By reconfiguring Dale Street in a “road diet” (going from 2 lanes in each direction to 1, but adding a center turn lane), we can eliminate the double threat for pedestrians, reduce turning conflicts AND decrease speeding, all at once!
PARKING – Parking is already heavily regulated on Dale Street, with time limits, daily restrictions for rush hour, and weekly restrictions for (probably) maintenance. A road diet would allow us to maintain one side of parking that simply gets to BE parking. Therefore simplifying parking access and minimizing spaces lost.
THROUGHPUT – Normally the number of cars handled by a 3-lane road and a 4-lane road are pretty similar. Usually 3-lane roads have a maximum of about 15,000 cars per day before they need to be looked at more carefully; and of those that have been looked at and designed more carefully, 3-lane roads have handled upwards of 20,000 vehicles per day! Dale Street-south of Selby Avenue-carries 9,700 vehicles per day, according to MnDOT. This means that 3 lanes could easily carry the traffic that currently uses Dale Street.
DRIVER SAFETY – (not a whatabout-ism, but still) Because the street grid breaks at Dale Street, left turns are less predictable. Because left-turns can cause dangerous conflicts already, ensuring that drivers can pull out of traffic to turn left will provide even further safety benefits on Dale Street.
WHY HERE? – Really, a 4/3 conversion could be considered all the way to I-94. However, north of Selby Avenue, Dale Street’s volume nears 20,000 vehicles per day, which is at the upper end of what a 3-lane roadway can handle. This post is not intended to be a spark for advocacy, but to identify a simple fix that is overdue, easy and cheap. Even engineering guidance would not recommend extra study on the segment of Dale Street south of Selby Avenue. There is no reason to continue having a more dangerous street layout, and it should be changed immediately.
Eliminating unnecessary lanes improves safety, walkability, and is very cheap. This isn’t something that needs years of study; it simply requires a power washing before the paint crew comes through to repaint the road. A 4/3 conversion on Dale Street won’t cause any other issues.