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Nearly One Year In, Eagan's Ring Road Beating Expectations

A recent traffic count shows that a higher-than-expected number of vehicles are using two key overpasses in the ring road loop.

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It didn't take long for Eagan motorists to grow attached to the city's new ring road system.

City officials originally estimated that the average daily traffic for the Northwood Parkway and Duckwood Drive overpasses—two vital links in the ring road route—would hit 7,500 cars by 2030.

Nearly one year after and the completion of Eagan's ring road, however, the route is already on track to beat those traffic projections, according to Eagan Public Works Director Russ Matthys.

Roughly 6,800 vehicles use the Northwood overpass each day, according to recent traffic volume studies. Traffic counts at Duckwood, on the southern end of the ring road system, are only slightly lower; approximately 6,000 drivers use that overpass daily, Matthys said.

The faster-than-expected traffic growth on those overpasses is evidence that the ring road, which took roughly 20 years to develop, was the right decision for the city—and a much-needed improvement, Matthys said.

“The first thing it does is say 'Hey, we did the right thing, we met some demands that were there,'" Matthys said. “I think the [Eagan City] Council should feel good, as should the taxpayers of the city of Eagan."

Construction of the two overpasses alone cost roughly $9.5 million, according to information released last year by the city prior to the opening of Duckwood Drive. Roughly $1.6 million of that cost was paid for through county and Federal agencies. The rest came out of the city's pocket.

City officials began planning for the ring road system in 1992. The three-mile loop, follows Denmark Avenue, Northwood Parkway, Central Parkway, Federal Drive and Duckwood Drive.

The system was designed to help alleviate heavy traffic at the intersection of Yankee Doodle Road and Pilot Knob Road. As many as 60,000 drivers went through that intersection daily—making it the second-busiest intersection in Dakota County, according to information released by the city last year.

The 365-foot Duckwood overpass, the site of a city-wide celebration last November honoring the ring road system, contains 46 miles worth of reinforcing rebar and roughly 1,300 tons of concrete and beams, city officials said.

Matthys believes that many of cars counted during the recent traffic studies at each overpass are unique—meaning that there was little repetition or redundancy between the two counts. That could mean more than 12,000 vehicles a day are using Duckwood or Northwood, rather than Yankee Doodle. That reduction is particularly significant, Matthys said, as traffic continues to grow on the city's larger arterials.

Traffic volumes on Yankee Doodle Road, for example, are expected to increase from an average of 30,500 vehicles per day to an estimated 49,000 vehicles a day in 2030, according to county projections.

City officials will continue tweaking improvements on the ring road system, especially as , Matthys said. But for now, the loop is serving its purpose.

"This was an improvement that wasn’t a cheap thing, it wasn’t something that every city does," Matthys said. "What we’re getting from the the counts indicates that we are successful, that we are seeing more people than anticipated."

Correction: This article has been changed to correct an inaccuracy. Russ Matthys is Eagan's Director of Public Works.

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