Douglas Drive / Highway 55 Intersection
As part of the preliminary design process for the 2016 to 2017 Douglas Drive improvement project, the City of Golden Valley, Hennepin County, and MnDOT developed concepts to improve the Highway 55/Douglas Drive intersection. The $6.5 million project was funded in the bonding bill signed by Governor Tim Walz October 22, 2020. The project is moving along and is scheduled to be constructed starting in the spring of 2023.
Even with traffic signals, vehicles on State Highway 55 through Golden Valley move fast going to and from Minneapolis. To improve driver and pedestrian safety as well as traffic efficiency in this area, in 2016-2017 Hennepin County and the City of Golden Valley reconstructed Douglas Drive between Highway 55 and Medicine Lane Road The project cost about $20 million, with Golden Valley and Hennepin County each paying about $10 million. However, these funds did not cover costs for improving all of the problems at the intersection of Highway 55 and Douglas Drive.
Problem: Pedestrians must cross six lanes of Highway 55 traffic to reach businesses, schools, and other area amenities. Nearly every morning during the school year, large groups of students who take public transportation are dropped off on the north side of Highway 55 at Douglas Drive and must dash across six lanes of rush hour traffic to reach their high school, the state-funded Perpich Center for Arts Education. They often don't make it all the way and spend the next traffic cycle perched on the small grass median between lanes of surging westbound and eastbound traffic. Or, they cross traffic without a protective crossing signal. Also, the Luce Line regional trail just north of Highway 55 brings many recreational bikers and joggers to the area.
Solution: A new underpass culvert crossing for pedestrians/ bikers will be ADA compliant and will connect the south frontage road to Douglas Drive (at location of new Metro Transit drop-off site), enabling safe passage for pedestrians and bikers.
Problem: The south side of the Highway 55 and Douglas Drive intersection has significant congestion and confusing turning movements, bus stops, and a high level of pedestrian usage that has resulted in safety issues and a high number of vehicle crashes north and south of the highway. The south frontage road is too close to Highway 55, and vehicles don't have room to queue at intersection. Significant back-ups occur, and it can take numerous signal cycles to get through. Many vehicles ignore posted stop signs and take chances to make the green light onto the highway. Combine this with a mix of pedestrians from local businesses and the Perpich school, as well as runners and bicyclists crossing the highway from the nearby popular Luce Line Regional Trail, and you have a recipe for disaster
Solution: Extending the throat of the intersection will provide more queuing capacity for vehicles at the intersection, thus moving more vehicles through in a shorter amount of time. A roundabout will eliminate the stop conditions at South Frontage Road and allow the intersection to quickly dissipate the queue.