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Maguire: County's Pilot Knob Road Proposal "Premature", Harmful to Local Businesses

Dakota County officials, Eagan City Council members and a handful of local business owners sparred over the future of a busy portion of Pilot Knob Road on Tuesday night.

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After conducting a months-long traffic study on a portion of Pilot Knob Road in Eagan, Dakota County officials finally submitted a recommendation to the Eagan City Council for review.

But the proposal ran into a wall of opposition at a Tuesday night meeting from council members and local business leaders. Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire rejected the recommendation during a heated debate, calling it "premature", "inflexible" and harmful to local businesses along the roadway.

Development on the Horizon

Pilot Knob Road has been under county scrutiny for months. County officials seek to relieve heavy traffic congestion on a .36-mile-long stretch between Yankee Doodle Road and Central Parkway. In 2011, the average daily traffic volume for that portion of Pilot Knob was 16,200 vehicles.

Dakota County Traffic Engineer Kristi Sebastian believes that number will increase substantially over the next 20 years—especially as redevelopment occurs on the Lockheed Martin site adjacent to Pilot Knob Road.

A developer, CSM Corporation, submitted on the 47-acre Lockheed site, but withdrew their application late last year. Now, city officials are working with a consultant to hammer out their vision for the high-profile property.

Sebastian acknowledged on Tuesday that the county's timeline for the study had been in part driven by CSM's proposal and the idea that development of the Lockheed site was imminent. Under the county's proposal, construction on the roadway would have started in 2014.

But with CSM's plans in a holding pattern, there is no need to rush the proposal—especially when it could hurt local businesses, Maguire argued.

Waiting for a Vision

The county's recommendation included adding a third southbound lane to Pilot Knob through the Pilot Knob and Yankee Doodle intersection to improve flow. The plan also calls for the elimination of the Wells Fargo driveway entrance just north of the Pilot Knob Yankee Doodle intersection. Access to Wells Fargo would instead be routed through Norwest Court.

While Maguire and other council members were in agreement with some aspects of the proposal, they strongly objected to the elimination of the driveway entrance.

"Removing our current access hurts customers, profitabily and property value," Wells Fargo representative Ellen McInnis told the council on Tuesday. McInnis was one of a handful of business officials that attended the council meeting.

County officials contend that the driveway poses a hazard because of its proximity the Yankee Doodle intersection. But McInnis urged Sebastian to allow Wells Fargo to install a right-turn lane into the driveway to reduce risk.

That idea found favor with Maguire.

"I would personally like to see more creativity devoted to and more explanation devoted to maintaining that driveway with different options," Maguire said.

No matter the outcome of the driveway access debate, Maguire said, the proposal is still premature, because CSM, which owns the Lockheed Martin property, and city officials have not yet settled on a vision for the site.

"I think that we should, quite frankly, put this study on hold until we have a better idea of what CSM is looking at," Maguire said.

Susan Ryan January 10, 2013 at 01:57 PM
I agree that the Wells Fargo driveway is a traffic hazard, and love the idea of a right turn lane into that property.
Jim Lit January 10, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Barring an accident, in all the years I have lived in Eagan (nearly 30), the only backup on Pilot Knob is northbound south of Yankee Doodle. A right turn lane into Wells Fargo would be good, but spending tax dollars unnecessary on a future project that is only in the minds of the Council is a total waste.
Paul January 11, 2013 at 06:43 AM
I bank in person at Wells Fargo, and have not once seen a collision or even a near-collision at the Wells Fargo driveway. Though this is anecdotal, what is statistics other than a significant number of anecdotal measurements? My observations span the most recent eight years, a wide variety of days & times, and "paydays" as well as "slow" days. If the city or county wants to put in a turn lane, then they should do it; but forcing Wells Fargo to foot the bill is simply wrong ... yet even spending taxpayers' dollars on it is wrong, particularly in the absence of an actual traffic-safety problem. In a tough economy, we need lower taxes, more public patience & prudence, and solutions that don't call for always more money in an ever more strained taxpayer situation.

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