More than 220 people signed a petition raising safety concerns about Duluth's Glenwood Street earlier this year, prompting the city and St. Louis County to study the busy eastern thoroughfare. At 5:30 p.m. tonight, community members are invited to gather at Lester Park Elementary School to learn about the findings of a recently completed traffic analysis as well as staff recommendations on how to improve and possibly slow the flow of traffic through this well-used corridor.
Perhaps the biggest change proposed involves the intersection at the top of Glenwood, where it meets Snively and Jean Duluth roads. What's now a four-way stop could be converted into a roundabout.
"Our traffic study showed a roundabout is the best option, but we want to meet with the residents who use it to get their opinions," said Steve Krasaway, St. Louis County resident engineer.
As local drivers become more familiar with roundabouts, Krasaway predicts people will grow more comfortable with them. He said there should be ample time to discuss the matter, with any work unlikely before 2022.
The county and city also considered installing stoplights at the intersection, but Krasaway said: "Roundabouts push traffic through much, much faster than a traffic signal, especially considering the kind of traffic volume we have at this intersection. Roundabouts are much safer, too."
Krasaway noted a roundabout recently installed at a similarly busy intersection between Midway and Maple Grove roads has allowed traffic to flow without backups.
As for the rest of Glenwood, Taryn Erickson, a project engineer for the city of Duluth, said: "In the short term, we're really looking at striping and signage changes to provide some traffic calming and better spaces for pedestrians and bicyclists, because that's a popular area with Hawk Ridge up off Skyline there."
"We're looking at having some painted buffers where possible, where we have some extra width. We're also going to be looking at incorporating some turn lanes at some of the major intersections where sight distances are a little tough, so to get those turning vehicles kind of out of the way," she said, pointing to Skyline Parkway in particular. Those proposed changes would likely occur next spring.
Despite neighborhood calls to reduce the 45 mph speed limit on the hillside portion of Glenwood between Snively and 43rd Avenue East, Erickson said there are no near-term plans to reduce the speed limit fo that section of the road due to its layout.
"The environment is the biggest influencer of speed. So based on the studies we've done, they've shown that the majority of traffic is traveling right around the limit, which is currently set at 45 mph. So without changing that environment, it doesn't make sense to change the speed limit," she said.
But Erickson said some of the new striping and narrower car lanes are intended to calm traffic speeds. If it does, she said the city could re-examine a lower speed limit.
Erickson noted Glenwood is a state-aid road, so any change in the posted speed limit would require approval from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, as well as the city.
"We're working towards it, but there really isn't a guarantee that it would change," she said of speed limit.
Greg Benson, who lives on Glenwood and organized the petition drive via a group dubbed "Make Glenwood Safe," continues to advocate for the entire road to be posted at 30 mph. He said local efforts to push for a lower speed limit were energized by numerous accidents, including one that claimed the life of a woman riding a motor scooter in 2016.
"Just slow it down. People go so fast, and they pass on the right side all the time, he said.
Benson noted that only 1 mile of Glenwood has a 45 mph speed limit.
"It amazes me how people drive that short section. You know, I timed it going 45 and I timed it going 30, and it was a 20-second difference.Then, on top of that, in the morning when people are driving the craziest, that 20 seconds doesn't even matter because you're driving up to a long line of cars," he said.
Residents' concerns about Glenwood have registered with 1st District Duluth City Councilor Gary Anderson, who represents the neighborhood, praised staff for turning their attention to.the busy road.
" I'm really grateful to see city and county investing money to develop the safest possible design for that street," he said.
If you go
What: Open house to discuss Glenwood Street traffic study
Where: Lester Park Elementary School media room, 5300 Glenwood St.
When: 5:30-7 p.m. today