Hamilton Ridge site

Former Prior Lake Aggregates mining land in south Savage off of County Road 27 is ready for construction to begin on the Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools’ new elementary school. However, Savage city officials say the plans need to be redesigned to ease traffic in the adjacent Big Sky Estates housing development.

Former Prior Lake Aggregates mining land in south Savage off of County Road 27 is ready for construction to begin on the Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools’ new elementary school. However, Savage city officials say the plans need to be redesigned to ease traffic in the adjacent Big Sky Estates housing development.

The Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools district needs to compromise on its proposed elementary school designs, Savage city officials said Monday before tabling the proposal for a second time.

The district listened: In an email Wednesday, Superintendent Teri Staloch said the site plan will change to include “a through-road on school property in order to minimize traffic impact in the Big Sky Estates neighborhood.”

The Savage City Council and representatives from the school district and Nexus Solutions, the company doing the work on the district’s referendum construction projects, didn’t see eye-to-eye on what a new traffic study says about the school’s potential impact on surrounding residential streets.

Hamilton Ridge Elementary School is slated to be built in south Savage and open in fall 2020 with around 560 students attending the first year.

“We aren’t asking the school to solve a traffic problem, we are asking the school to not give us a traffic problem,” Councilman Bob Coughlen said.

The plans are tentatively scheduled to go before the council again on May 20.

As requested, the district did a traffic study examining the impact of school traffic on residential streets and sent it to the city May 2. A study by Wenck Associates Inc. measured traffic during weekday peak hours, or 8:30-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-4:40 p.m. based on the 9:20 a.m.-3:50 p.m. school day.

The study concluded the surrounding roadway system will accommodate both existing and forecast traffic volumes during all times and traffic generated by the school will not impact traffic operations at nearby intersections.

The elementary school is expected to generate 431 trips during both peak times, and around 90 cars will use the surrounding residential street, Wyoming Avenue, to go north after exiting the school’s site.

Savage City Engineer Seng Thongvanh said around 1,000 trips per day is usually considered tolerable on residential streets, but council members said they believe 90 cars during one hour time frames is too much for comfort — especially following rush hour.

At the May 6 meeting, Councilman Matt Johnson said the results reinforce his belief there needs to be a way for cars to exit on the north side of the school’s property. Without it, he said, traffic from the school will be unlivable for residents on Wyoming Avenue.

City officials said they’ve been hearing from many residents who agree with their concerns, and several residents attended the meeting in support.

The Savage City Council first expressed concerns over the proposed Hamilton Ridge Elementary’s site plan when it caught a glimpse of the designs at a meeting in mid-April.

The council held a special meeting on April 23 in an effort to keep the elementary school and surrounding Big Sky Estates development on track, but Savage city officials said they were disappointed to find themselves looking at the same school plans again rather than being offered an alternative. So the council tabled the plans.

Illustrated site plan

An illustrated site plan shows how buses and delivery vehicles will enter the Hamilton Ridge Elementary site from the north and public access to the school and parking lot will be to the south.

School district officials said the site’s starting design was based on best safety practices, but city officials said there are many safe solutions to allow cars to exit north on the school’s property.

“There’s more than one way to solve this puzzle,” Coughlen said.

Christine Schuster is a reporter for the Savage Pacer.

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