Civic idea: add right turn lanes at Woodley and Division to improve traffic flow at rush hour

Norman Butler added this comment to a blog post discussion thread recently:

Norman-Butler Griff, I wonder if a thread might work which invites the general public to comment and contribute any idea that might improve the local world.  It could be in the form of brainstorming, which could be sorted by you or others into categories.

May I start…The intersection of Woodley and Division could be improved by providing two entry lanes with one right-turn lane.  This would clear the traffic much more efficiently, especially during the rush hour.

Woodley and DivisionWoodley and Division Woodley and DivisionWoodley and Division 

Here are four views (L to R: facing north, east, west, south) of the intersection at Woodley and Division. It shows that there would be plenty of room for a right turn lane in each direction.

Attach a comment to discuss the pros and cons of Norman’s suggestion.

Have your own ‘civic idea’? Attach a comment or use our Contact Us form and we’ll consider it for its own blog post.


  1. John S. Thomas said:

    For an example of what you are proposing, just head out to Division and Jefferson parkway.

    We all know how pedestrian friendly that intersection is. 😎

    This intersection is already a challenge. Changing the configuration would make it even more unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

    I am not saying no, but I am sure that since this is a CSAH, that the county and MNDOT may be involved in any changes.

    Norman, what is the benefit of improving this intersection?

    The solution lies more in the other streets taking pressure off of Woodley and Division.

    Jefferson Parkway, as well as 5th need to be better configured to take on supporting traffic.

    I live near the golf course, south of Woodley. I do my best to NOT go down Woodley. Most times, its Prairie to 7th, to downtown, or Prairie to 7th, to Washington to 5th, or 2nd then north out of town. If I am heading towards the south, it is Maple to Jefferson, then to Hwy 3.

    Traffic flow in Northfield needs to be addressed, as there is too much traffic that feeds into that intersection at peak times. The intersection does not clear well due to poor pavement and ruts. If it were smoother, folks would not be in the intersection as long.

    I have not personally measured, but is there 48 feet of width at all 4 entry points? This would be needed to give you three 12 foot lanes, and 2 six foot shoulders.

    With the conversion of Woodley south of prairie into three ungodly wide lanes, why don’t you just propose that we widen that thing out all the way to highway 3, remove parking on both sides, and increase the speed to 45 or so? Everyone drives that speed anyway. Forget that we have students that cross Woodley to get to the schools.

    Those lanes get added, the next thing you know, there is a stop light, then some corporate entity comes in and buys your corner property, and slaps in a fast food restaurant, or a gas & convenience store.

    I like that intersection just as it is right now. LOCAL, and residential.

    Most townies know to avoid that intersection at rush hour. Even if your in the line, it only takes a minute or two. Perhaps preventing parking on the southern side of Woodley across from the gas station could prevent some of the tie ups. Also, training drivers how to act at a four way stop would also significantly help the flow.

    June 1, 2008
  2. Anne Bretts said:

    None of the intersections in town are that bad, but a lot of places can be improved.
    For example, take out the stray lane on Jefferson Road and put the darned lane marker down the middle of the road. That would create two lanes wide enough to make bike traffic safer. As it is now, the uneven lane configuration makes no sense and in winter you can’t tell where the lanes are.
    At Division and Jefferson, fix the left turn lane east and westbound so that through traffic stays in the right lane, as it does at other intersections. This configuration doesn’t align with the configuration at Jefferson and Jefferson, and putting through traffic in the left lane makes the short school-time crunch worse than it needs to be.

    June 1, 2008
  3. Does it matter how the road is marked? Cars can go into a parking lane to make a right turn already — in fact a car is doing just that in one of these pictures.

    If we’re dreaming, I think this intersection would be a perfect place for a traffic circle. The traffic is pretty even from both roads, and it would keep things flowing much more evenly.

    John said:

    “With the conversion of Woodley south of prairie into three ungodly wide lanes, why don’t you just propose that we widen that thing out all the way to highway 3, remove parking on both sides, and increase the speed to 45 or so? Everyone drives that speed anyway. Forget that we have students that cross Woodley to get to the schools.”

    I realize you’re being facetious, John, but everything up to raising the speed limit sounds good to me. Have you ever tried to bicycle on Woodley between Prairie St and Spring Creek Rd? It’s absolutely awful. (In fact, if memory serves, I think a cyclist was killed on that stretch of road several years ago.) Widening the road is necessary — for motorized and non-motorized vehicles alike.

    Anne said:

    For example, take out the stray lane on Jefferson Road and put the darned lane marker down the middle of the road.

    Anne, I think we’ve talked about this offline, and it’s a great idea. That parking lane is almost never used (most people who live off Jefferson Rd have large driveways anyway), and — as you said — just becomes an extension of of the southbound lane when the snow is falling or the paint starts to fade.

    June 1, 2008
  4. Anne Bretts said:

    Sean, you’re scaring me. I am old and have no life, but you should have one. You just graduated. Congratulations! Go party, go play, go drink too much caffeine and stay up all night. Do not spend this time discussing public policy with us…(although I you are very good at it, especially when you agree with me).

    June 1, 2008
  5. Minor correction: I see that I was actually referring to a roundabout, not a traffic circle. I also found this excellent powerpoint about the benefits of roundabouts. It does a good job of addressing having a mix of pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles.

    June 1, 2008
  6. Be still, my heart: another roundabout advocate emerges! I have become a big fan of roundabouts, and have been advocating their use locally since researching the Woodley redesign last summer as a member of the Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force. See, for example, “Woodley Street: A Modest Proposal” and “Roundabouts redux.”

    Their traffic flow, safety (for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) and efficiency benefits are truly significant, and the reason they are sprouting up all over the place, even in such non-bobo settings as New Prague. Engineering analysis (objective and unbiased, unlike the sham presented during the Woodley Street redesign fiasco last summer) would be needed to see what kind of roundabout design might work at existing intersections (Jefferson/Division; Woodley/Division), but they can work even in quite tight locations.

    June 2, 2008
  7. Bill Ostrem said:

    Imagine my surprise when I looked at a recent Wisconsin state highway map and there, prominently featured, was a diagram of a roundabout and text on the state’s commitment to creating more of them. “Easy as 1-2-3” was the slogan. It isn’t on my 2007 Wisc. map, and I’m not sure if it is on the 2006 version or a more recent version.

    Green Bay, WI, is another non-Bobo town that has lots of roundabouts.

    I’ve concluded Wisconsin is ahead of where we are on highway issues. See, for example, Cumberland, WI, where on the main street in town (state highway 63!) the speed limit is 15 miles per hour in a school zone near an elementary school when school children are present.

    June 2, 2008
  8. I lived on the east coast for a while where roundabouts are much more popular. They pose one significant problem: it’s too much fun to just keep going around and around squealing “weeeeeeeee!!!!!!”

    They’re too similar to playground merry-go-rounds. In New Hampshire, they employ people to stand on the center islands to enforce a strict “Three Times Around” maximum rule.

    I got so into it once that I let go of the steering wheel in joy. “No Hands! No Hands!” I screamed…

    Unfortunately, no street design can account for such behavior.

    June 2, 2008
  9. John S. Thomas said:

    I think that a Roundabout would be a wonderful idea, and a great addition to our town.

    However, like all things, you have to get approval of the DJJD committee, as this would impact the parade. 😎

    June 2, 2008
  10. Jane Moline said:

    I love roundabouts (just go to Mass and drive around (and around and around)) but I don’t know if Northfield drivers have the required skill set for these. Everybody would be stopping and starting and stopping and starting and not letting anyone in or out.

    I think it would also take out the service station and the building on the southwest corner.

    June 2, 2008
  11. Jane,
    I hear that argument from time to time — that American (or midwestern) drivers don’t know how to behave in roundabouts, but as Bruce pointed out, they’re becoming more common. There are also things that can be done to make it more obvious, such as placing a series of “one way” signs in the center island, and adding a dividing island between the lanes (see here) that would make it extremely difficult to turn left into a roundabout.

    As for the buildings, you’re probably right about the building on the southwest corner. I don’t think it would affect the service station building, though the pump might have to be moved.

    June 2, 2008
  12. Jane,
    I’m confident Dundas drivers could master the relatively straightforward art of navigating roundabouts, and I think even Northfield’s overly-educated population could manage it after a breaking-in period.

    I’ve been playing with GoogleEarth and image overlays, and it appears that a roundabout with a 30-meter inscribed diameter (the minimum required to get big rigs through in an orderly fashion per engineering specs in federal roundabout guides) would fit nicely (albeit snugly) at Woodley and Division (and at Woodley and Maple, and Woodley and Prairie). I’ll blog about it on my website tomorrow if I have time.

    Norman would even have less noise, I’m confident, since cars/trucks/buses wouldn’t be stopping and accelerating outside his bedroom window all day and night.

    June 2, 2008
  13. john george said:

    I think round-a-bouts are a good answer for those people who do not like to come to a complete stop at an intersection. They aren’t a complete answer for grid-lock, though (as if that were a threat in Northfield, anyway). I was in a vehicle a couple years ago in Barnaul, Siberia, that was trying to get around one of these things. That particular one was complicated by two sets of electric trolley tracks going through it. It took us 20 minutes to get from one side to the other (if I’m lyin’, I’m diein’). Of course, those Siberian drivers are of a different ilk, anyway. I was also on a few in San Jose, Costa Rica, with my daughter and son-in-law. Those were an interesting challenge to get around, also. I have also driven on some here in the states. In my estimation, the only thing that allows them to work is the same thing that allows any intersection to work when traffic is heavy- driver courtesy. Now, that is something that seems to be getting harder and harder to find.

    June 2, 2008
  14. I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition – a couple of cans of spray paint is all I’m suggesting. Can we change the subject?

    June 3, 2008
  15. Randy Jennings said:

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. It’s chief weapons are fear, suprise, a fanatical devotion to the griff, er, Pope, and attractive red uniforms.

    June 3, 2008
  16. Randy Jennings said:

    For the full Monty Python treatment, try this:

    June 3, 2008
  17. Coming to that intersection from the direction of the high school, there is a quasi turn lane/bike lane/something lane marked, which helps. Traveling in the other directions, one can only pull up to the right of another vehicle if they are really hugging the center line, which they often do not do because they perceive it as a single lane. I sat in a line of several cars there earlier today, and the car in front of me was signaling right but didn’t even try to move toward the right curb until it got to the front of the line. It can be a little frustrating when you know that there is — barely — room to have two abreast. I suspect the road doesn’t currently meet width requirements to officially mark a turn lane.

    June 3, 2008

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