Traffic study points to Rum River Drive roundabout

Photo by Debbie Griffin, Union-Times
Engineers for WSB explained the traffic data from a study related to a potential, future roundabout on Rum River Drive where it intersects with Ninth Avenue Circle and 125th Street.

Engineers, officials and a few citizens met at Princeton City Hall the evening of Aug. 23 for an informational open house to see and talk about the results of a traffic study on the intersection at Rum River Drive, 125th Street and Ninth Avenue.
The intersection sits just west of the Highway 169 exit ramp and has on one side the Baldwin Township business district and on the other side several Princeton businesses. The city, the township and Sherburne County commissioned in January engineers WSB to conduct a traffic study on the intersection after complaints about congestion and backup in the area.
WSB Traffic Engineer Chuck Rickart explained the study results and helped answer people’s questions. The study involved analyzing traffic volume and crash data, as well as computer modeling of what it’s likely to be in the future. WSB looked at the potential effects of three intersection solutions to carry Princeton through the next 20 years or so: A roundabout, a traffic signal or an all-way stop.
“The roundabout did come up slightly better than the signal,” Rickart said.
The upfront cost for the roundabout would be slightly more because it consists of more pavement and possibly more right-of-way acquisition than a signal. However, a roundabout carries lower long-term operation costs and higher long-term effectiveness than a signal.
As the discussion revealed, engineers think a roundabout will keep traffic flowing whereas a signal would meter it. A signal option would require hardware, a left-turn lane and ongoing maintenance. The engineers said an all-way stop would do nothing to address traffic concerns.
They emphasized a few times that a roundabout is designed to slow traffic to 15-20 miles per hour and to lessen the severity of any crashes.
Princeton Police Chief Todd Frederick said the severity and frequency of crashes had decreased significantly in the years since the roundabout was installed at Highway 95 and Rum River Drive, “From a public safety standpoint, the roundabout honestly has been a blessing to us.”
Citizens and officials from the city, township and Sherburne County made comments and asked questions during the open event:
—It takes more work to clean up snow from a roundabout than from a straight intersection.
—The project, when identified and funded, would be led by Sherburne County.
—There are more accidents at the highway ramps than at that intersection.
—Highways and ramps fall under the state’s jurisdiction.
—The study acknowledged other intersections but was focused only on the Rum River/Ninth/125th.
—Would people be able to access the gas station and other businesses during construction? Yes, possibly by working on one half of the road at a time.
—The intersection is part of the bigger transportation network and general concern about safe, efficient travel in and out of the city’s industrial park.
—Roundabout construction could happen in one season.
Traffic-crash data Rickart had did not confirm the perception that there are more crashes at the highway ramps than at the busy intersection. The 2015-2017 data show five crashes at the Rum River/125th St./Ninth Ave. intersection, while in the same period there were three crashes at the northbound ramp and one at the southbound ramp of Highway 169.
People’s main complaints about the intersection have been about waiting to take a left onto 125th Street from Rum River Drive; there are moments when the cars line up to or past the Highway 169 exit ramp. There are concerns about getting in and out of both business districts, and the issues arise mostly during peak hours.
The engineers said the next steps would be to take comments and then deliver a final report to the county, city and town boards. Sherburne County will take the lead to pursue funding for an improvement.