WAYZATA — Something is missing from one of the stoplights on the new Central Avenue/County Road 101 bridge in Wayzata, and some residents in the area have noticed.
There is no longer a permanent no-right-turn-on-red sign at the stoplight for motorists driving from westbound U.S. Highway 12 to northbound Central Avenue/County Road 101. Before the bridge was reconstructed, a sign instructed motorists not to turn right on red.
A lighted no-right-turn-on-red sign was installed at the intersection when the new bridge was built. It is only activated right now when a pedestrian presses the crosswalk button, Steve Misgen, Minnesota Department of Transportation's (MnDOT) metro traffic engineer, told Lakeshore Weekly News on Dec. 3.
The lack of a permanent sign has made turning left from Hollybrook Road, just north of the intersection, and other streets north on County Road 101 difficult, especially during the morning and evening commutes, according to comments on the local NextDoor page.
“This no-right-turn-on-red is very important to the safety of residents that use 101, especially those who depend on Hollybrook Road to leave our homes,” Belinda Stutzman, who lives in a townhome off Hollybrook Road, told the paper. “There are four townhome communities along the frontage road and many people, including older drivers, live there.”
Without the no-right-turn-on-red sign, drivers who are turning left off Hollybrook Road onto County Road 101 “often have to make a very split-second decision as traffic is flying at you both ways,” Stutzman said, and even if someone is turning right out of Hollybrook Road, there is often a “lengthy backup” caused by people waiting to turn left.
She is also concerned vehicles are freely turning from the two right-turn lanes on the ramp off of westbound U.S. Highway 12 and drivers approaching the red light on the ramp are making a rolling stop because the rise in the bridge is clear and then are accelerating quickly to get up to the speed limit.
“It is just a matter of time before someone gets hurt at this intersection if something doesn't change quickly,” Stutzman said.
Stutzman hopes the no-right-turn-on-red sign becomes permanent again because when the sign was there, it allowed drivers to monitor traffic and wait for a gap created when the light turned red before turning.
But not everyone agrees with Stutzman. Others who frequent the intersection are happy to see turning right on red is allowed, especially at times when it's not busy, like early weekend mornings or late at night, posts on NextDoor and comments on the Lakeshore Weekly News Facebook page show.
MnDOT has also received numerous calls from people who are both for and against having a permanent sign at the intersection, David Aeikens, MnDOT spokesperson, told the paper. Some shared they are happy to see it gone because people rarely would stop and wait for a green light anyway.
"That's our concern, if people aren't obeying the sign, why should be put it in?" Misgen said, noting they're "lucky" if they get 50% compliance with the no-right-turn-on-red signs MnDOT has in the area.
In the past seven months when the no-right-turn-on-red sign was in effect, the Wayzata Police Department issued a total of 34 citations and warnings for the no-right-turn-on-red violation, Wayzata Police Chief Michael Risvold told the paper on Dec. 3.
"We do get complaints and requests for extra enforcement in the area from time to time," Risvold said, adding, "Anecdotally, I position my unmarked police car in the area at various times looking for violators. On occasion, I observe one. Having said that, I’ve sat near that corner for stretches of 30 minutes at a time without seeing any violations."
Risvold said the no-right-turn-on-red sign is "effective in creating gaps for the motorists coming off of Hollybrook Road and turning onto Central Avenue."
Why the change?
When the Central Avenue/County Road 101 bridge was reconstructed over the summer (it opened Nov. 17), MnDOT reevaluated everything that was already on the bridge, including the permanent no-right-turn-on-red sign, Misgen said.
It is not standard for MnDOT to install a no-right-turn-on-red sign unless there are circumstances that demand it, Misgen said.
There is no record that explains why the permanent no-right-turn-on-red sign was installed at the intersection in the first place. Misgen said they’ve heard it was added after MnDOT received a lot of complaints from people who had trouble turning onto Central Avenue from Hollybrook Road, so somewhere along the way a sign was put in as a way to supposedly create gaps, but there is no documentation that actually says that.
MnDOT is in the process of recording video of the intersection in order to collect data on whether the lighted no-right-turn-on-red sign needs to be activated more often or by time of day, Misgen said. MnDOT then has plans to meet with staff from Hennepin County, MnDOT’s partner on the bridge project (the county owns the road), on Monday, Dec. 9, to discuss the signage.
A decision on whether to activate the no-right-turn-on-red sign more often is expected early next week, Misgen said.