The upcoming Hwy. 112 project has stirred ire among the residents of the Coventry Road neighborhood.
On Thursday, Oct. 10, the city of Le Sueur hosted an open house at City Hall to answer the community’s questions on the 112 turnback project, a joint effort between the state of Minnesota, Le Sueur County and the city of Le Sueur to reconstruct the trunk highway and transfer ownership of the highway from the state to the county. The project deal would also include the reconstruction of several roads in Le Sueur adjacent to 112.
One of the most controversial parts of the project is the city’s proposal to connect Coventry Road to Hwy. 112. Emergency personnel argue that keeping the road closed off delays emergency response time. Instead of taking a direct path from 112 to Coventry, the city has to spend extra time going through other neighborhoods to reach Coventry. However, many residents on Coventry are concerned about cars and trucks going over the speed limit.
“I’m concerned about the safety of the slope,” said Kenna Streed, a Coventry resident who has collected 100 signatures between two petitions to keep Coventry Road closed. “Are vehicles going to slide through the intersection in winter? There’s a lot of traffic and semi traffic that won’t stop on a dime. It’s dangerous, it’s always remained closed for a reason.”
A recent speed study by the county on Hwy. 112 confirmed residents’ observations of frequent speeding. About 85% of northbound drivers on the 30 mph section of 112 between Kaukis Drive and Turrill Street were driving at or below 40 mph with about 63% driving between 30-39 mph.
In response, the city has recommended changes to the existing speed limits. This includes changing the 50 mph stretch of the highway to 45 mph, though only the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has the power to make that change after it conduct its own speed study. Staff also recommended moving the 30 mph ahead advance warning sign for northbound traffic closer to where the speed limit changes and installing a radar sign just past the transition to 30 mph.
City Administrator Jasper Kruggel and City Engineer Cory Bienfang also pointed out that, from an engineering standpoint, opening Coventry as an intersection met required safety standards. The slope of 112 is less than 5%, which is considered an acceptable grade for the road from an engineering perspective. In addition, the sight distance at the proposed intersection for stopping — a left turn from stop and a right turn from stop — currently exceeds sight distance requirements from MnDOT and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Those requirements have been met whether vehicles are traveling at 30 mph or 40 mph.
“A lot of questions have been addressed,” said Administrator Kruggel. “We’re changing the road profile, which will better meet safety standards … If we open the intersection, it will meet engineering standards.”
“For me, the driving factor behind opening Coventry is what emergency personnel have said,” said Kruggel. “Fire and police don’t have easy access to the neighborhood.”
However, many Coventry residents remained skeptical that the Hwy. 112 project or the city’s recommendations would make opening the intersection any safer.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Streed.
Streed and others came to open house with questions for the city about alternatives to opening Coventry. In particular, Streed was interested in hearing what it would cost to convert the dead-end on Coventry into a cul-de-sac rather than an intersection, though City Engineer Cory Bienfang could not provide her with a firm answer. Streed’s experiences at the open house left her feeling unheard.
“I feel like we’re not getting anywhere,” said Streed. “No matter how much fact-finding I do, no matter how much research I do, I’m feeling like they’re not being heard or absorbed. No matter what we say, they’re going to go through with this.”
Administrator Kruggel said that he felt the city has been as responsive as it can.
“We try to communicate the best we can,” said Kruggel. “We've reached out to the people being vocal. We want to be inclusive and communicate and answer questions and I think we have.”