Recently, in the comments section of an article, this question was asked:
Doug Miner, can you confirm whether or not MRH School District or the opposition groups have had a study conducted and presented to the Council supporting their opinion that the intersection will become more dangerous?
Well, I’m not Doug Miner, but since I am a member of the group opposing the development, I wanted to help answer this question. (And anyone who has other questions or wants to sign or help with the Petition for Referendum can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Unfortunately, the answer wouldn’t really fit in the Comments section, so I’m answering below:
It sounds like the question is pertaining more to the intersection of Big Bend and Manchester, which is important and of great concern, but I think what keeps getting lost in this situation is that Big Bend and Manchester are only a part of the problem and not where the greatest problem lies. The original study submitted by QT said that the traffic at that intersection would not increase significantly, but admitted that the study was done before the new CVS went in. So right there, it was an incomplete study, but it's what was used in discussions.
The school district did pay to have an assessment done of the original traffic study that QT submitted. During that assessment a number of flaws were found in the original study. One being that there was believed to have been a significant under-estimation of the amount of traffic that would be using Martini to enter and leave the QT property.
When considering that, please remember that the QT study already admitted that traffic on Northbound Martini would increase from about 20 cars during the peak hour each morning to hundreds of cars during that same period – and the assessment the district had done claims that was too low. The new assessment thought that number was off by about a third or more. But regardless of who you ask, the amount of traffic brought into the area is a ridiculous amount. Even going from 20 cars to a conservative estimate of 250 is an incredible increase.
During this hour currently we have kids walking to school, busses dropping off, and about 20 cars. Take that to the situation the QT traffic engineer described, and in that same hour, you have kids walking to school, busses dropping off, and somewhere between 250 and 400 cars – depending on who you ask. And please remember that Martini isn't much larger than an alley.
Taking all of that into consideration, it's no surprise that the true conflict became how to address Martini. Yes, Big Bend and Manchester are safety concerns, but steps are already being taken to keep pedestrians as safe as possible. During the assessment MRH had done, the conversations moved more to how to address what was believed to be an even more urgent matter that put a larger number of students and pedestrians at risk. From those results, the district did communicate with the City and submit their proposed changes and findings for discussion.
The School District asked the City to block Northbound traffic on Martini, north of the QT property, so cars could not use the area around the school as a backdoor to avoid traffic on Big Bend or Manchester. They also asked that the Martini/Manchester intersection be made Right in/Right out and that a "pork chop" area be added. (A "pork chop" being a small raised island in the intersection that gives pedestrians a safe haven when trying to navigate a busy entryway. If you look at the CVS entry from Big Bend, there is one there.) There were other, smaller items requested, but these were the key three in my opinion.
I was not at these meetings and can't tell you exactly what was said, but it seems like QT was willing to discuss some of these suggestions, although I don't know how seriously. However, it was at this point that things took a crazy turn.
The City Council, instead of working through what could have been some reasonable compromises, took it upon themselves to completely block Martini at the north end of the QT property. The Council is also requiring QT to purchase a property on Big Bend that can be torn down and made a "bump-through" or small road that will take traffic from Big Bend to Martini and push more traffic directly into that neighborhood, the school parking lots and walkways. THESE DECISIONS WERE MADE WITHOUT A SINGLE TRAFFIC STUDY, SAFETY ASSESSMENT OR DISCUSSION WITH THE SCHOOL DISTRICT, THE NEIGHBORHOOD OR ANY OTHER STAKEHOLDER.
This is the scariest part of the entire process. The solution the Council forced through was done without ANY professional advice, direction or opinion. And it was poorly done. There is no “winner” here. Neither QT, the School District, nor area residents got what they were asking for. And I’m afraid that if this development is allowed to proceed that the City of Maplewood as a whole will be the real “loser”. Anyone who shares my concerns, or has your own, please sign our Petition for Referendum. All we’re asking for is a chance to be heard by voting on this development since the City Council refused to allow for a reasonable compromise. I can be reached at email@example.com.