HASTINGS — More than 100 people attended the open house for the Highway 316 Safety Improvement project hosted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation Feb. 13. Neighbors specifically expressed concerns they have with the area from the north junction of Highway 61 to south of Tuttle Drive.
The project is slated to take place in 2021. The total project budget is $8.2 million. The north junction of Highway 61 to south of Tuttle Drive will have $1.4 million of the total budget for pavement repair and trail and related improvements.
Molly Kline, the south area engineer for MnDOT, said the turnout at the open house was much larger than what they had expected. The event was held in order to receive public input on improvements to help with safety and traffic flow for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists on Highway 316.
A map of the corridor was laid out on a table for attendees to stop by and leave Post-It Notes with suggestions or concerns they have. One person wrote that school buses stop on the shoulder but vehicles drive by very fast. Another person suggested putting in a roundabout and another person noted the difficulty for pedestrians and bikers to cross or access a trail.
Kline mentioned at the meeting that it appears to be difficult to turn left onto the highway, after which several people in the audience laughed as though they were aware of the issue. Several comments from attendees on the map for suggestions noted the same issue.
Kline said the open house provided MnDOT with lots of information and commentary from area businesses and local residents.
"We're working through compiling those (comments) to understand better what the concerns are," she said.
Kline said she and her team scoped out the project area last fall. One thing they noticed was the difficulty as a pedestrian walking in the area. She said a trail facility will be involved in the project whether there will be access on the east side or the west side is yet to be decided.
"This is really the time to get your concerns heard where there is time for us at MnDOT and City to address those," Kline said.
One local asked about the intersection at Highway 61 and Highway 316. Kline said some people mentioned a roundabout option. She said that particular intersection is not part of the current project in question; however, it would be a possibility for the Highway 61 project intended for 2025.
According to MnDOT, Highway 316 carries more traffic than Highway 61 with many vehicles averaging trip lengths that exceed 30 miles. About 45-55 percent of all trips begin or end in Hastings. A speed study by MnDOT shows that many vehicles travel about 5-10 mph over the speed limit throughout the corridor and 15 percent travel even faster.
Hastings City Council and McDOT will have a workshop March 5 to recap the feedback and MnDOT will gather more input from the council. A second public open house will be scheduled for the spring once some alternative options are developed.
The public can still provide input and comments regarding the project by visiting www.mndot.gov/metro/projects/hwy316.