By Anne Holzman
At their July 27 meeting, Lauderdale City Council members heard from Minnesota Department of Transportation officials about ongoing speed studies and plans to remove the signal and left turn lane from northbound Highway 280 onto Broadway Avenue.
MnDOT earlier slated the traffic light removal and road repaving on Highway 280 for 2025. But at the meeting, the council learned the department has now pushed that work back to 2026 for that stretch of the highway from I-94 to Como Avenue, and to 2027 for that stretch of the highway from Como Avenue to Highway 36.
Concerns raised by council members and the public at the meeting included vehicle speeds; street racing; the loss of a favorite route via Broadway up to the Quarry retail shopping center and surrounding businesses; and access for bikes and pedestrians approaching and crossing Highway 280 at Larpenteur Avenue
MnDOT’s Tony Wotzka presented a slide show demonstrating crash rates at the left turn signal and projected effects on traffic if the left turn is eliminated. He said traffic could still leave and enter Highway 280 southbound, but a barrier would prevent any turns from the northbound lanes at Broadway.
Responding to the turn removal, council member Duane Pulford said he uses the turn often and that the proposal to remove it “makes me wonder if I might go to the Quarry and other businesses a little bit less.”
Wotzka also said that a speed limit study already in progress had been delayed until the signal can be removed. The possibility of raising the speed limit has been under discussion for years.
Council member Jeffrey Dains reiterated a commonly heard position on the subject, telling Wotzka and his MnDOT colleague Melissa Barnes, “I’m adamantly opposed to raising the speed limit on 280.”
Council member Andi Moffatt told MnDOT officials, “We have been hearing quite a bit of concern” about the proposed changes. She brought up the issue of street racing, which is a perennial noise and safety issue on that highway.
“How does getting rid of that light affect racing?” Moffatt asked.
Lauderdale resident Paula Biever called in to talk about the street racing issue, saying she feared removing the traffic light would make that activity “more exciting.”
Biever later expanded her remarks in an email to the Bugle : “If a stoplight is no longer at the intersection, it is more likely that racers will start speeding earlier as they approach Highway 280 since they won’t have any reason to stop there. I understand that perhaps racers don’t stop for red lights anyway, but at least it is one more thing that they could be pulled over for.”
Resident Chris Bower called in to say that he supported removing the signal but was concerned that the state would miss an opportunity to improve bike and pedestrian approaches and crossings, particularly at the Larpenteur-Hennepin intersection.
“I am asking for MnDOT to add this into your project,” Bower said.
Dains requested that MnDOT send a representative to a future council meeting to follow up on the question of bike and pedestrian safety.
MnDOT posts updates on a Construction Projects website. But neither the interactive map nor the construction list showed current information for this project as of mid-August.
Anne Holzman is a Bugle freelance writer who covers Falcon Heights and Lauderdale government news.