Take an interstate highway with four lanes of traffic traveling at high rates of speed, then dump that onto a residential street that throttles down to two lanes — one flowing in each direction — and you can bet there will be conflicts.
Meet the challenge that awaits the Minnesota Department of Transportation as it begins to plan for the 2025 redo of Duluth's London Road.
On Wednesday evening, MnDOT staff asked local residents to weigh in on what they wanted the street to look like in a few years. Come 2025, the state aims to invest $8.3 million in London Road. This will involve a mill and overlay of the street, meaning that the current surface will be ground down and a fresh new layer of asphalt will be installed, but other changes could be in store, as well.
Project Engineer Tom Lamb said there are no plans to expand the overall width of the street, yet several modifications certainly could be part of the project.
Among the ideas under review is the possibility of replacing stoplights at 26th and 40th avenues east with roundabouts in order to smooth out and slow down traffic.
At a virtual online event, many residents requested that MnDOT take steps to make London Road easier for pedestrians to cross during periods of heavy traffic. The street regularly carries a heavy load of commercial truck traffic heading up the shore, as well as the seasonal crush of tourists.
Lamb thanked participants for their input and noted: "We're looking to improve pedestrian safety, and that could include installing crosswalks."
The area around Glensheen Mansion was identified as a particular area of concern.
Residents asked for state officials to consider ways to calm traffic through the corridor, too. They pointed to vehicles currently traveling at high rates of speed and often illegally using parking lanes to pass to the right around vehicles waiting to make left turns. This can put bicyclists and runners on the road's shoulder at serious risk.
Lamb stressed that few decisions have yet been made by MnDOT and stressed the importance of London Road's users sharing their concerns and ideas with the state as it develops a plan.
When the work on London Road begins, probably in 2025, local traffic likely will be diverted onto Superior Street.
Residents voiced concern about the poor condition of that street. But Superior Street is due for improvements this summer.
MnDOT Traffic Engineer Jim Miles said the state will coordinate its efforts with local street improvement projects and will also seek direction as to future development likely in the area.
Lamb urged people to complete an online survey about their thoughts regarding London Road, both their concerns and desired improvements, at this site.
Another public meeting to discuss the evolving project, whether virtual or in-person, will likely be scheduled for late summer or fall of this year.