by Dennis Dalman
Grizzly Lane used to be a pleasant road winding through the Celebration neighborhood in southwest Sartell, but in recent years it has morphed into a virtual speedway, making that route a potential death zone.
At the March 9 City Council meeting, two Celebration residents spoke about their deep concerns during the Open Forum portion of the council meeting. And council members agreed something has to be done – and quickly.
Darin Morrison was the first resident who addressed the council. He has lived in the Celebration neighborhood for four years. The danger began on Grizzly Lane, he said, when the city opened Pinecone Central Park some years ago. At that time, Grizzly Lane became a thoroughfare that many Sartell residents began using as a quicker way to get from west to east, east to west. Some motorists speed along Grizzly, far in excess of its 30 mph speed limit, he noted.
Morrison said he has seen the dangers along that road time and again, including people having to jump quickly onto lawns to avoid being hit by vehicles. There are no sidewalks along Grizzly Lane, which forces pedestrians to walk on the edges of the road. Vehicles have even been seen smashing into garbage cans, Morrison added.
“I have two small children,” he told the council, adding at the very least there should be two stop signs along Grizzly – at Eighth and 15th to remind people to slow down or to discourage them from using it as a thoroughfare speedway.
The second resident to speak, Steve Flynn, has lived in Sartell for 21 years. Flynn made much the same points that Morrison did. He has contacted other residents and the city council members about the safety concerns along that road.
“Somebody’s going to die,” he said, noting he has seen quite a few motorists texting while driving on Grizzly, along with other reckless behaviors. “If somebody dies you will never forgive yourselves.”
The city, Flynn said, must do something, or a combination of solutions, to make the Celebration neighborhood safe again.
There are four or five curves along Grizzly. Many times, Flynn said, he was backing out of his driveway when he had to come to a screeching halt because a motorist was speeding recklessly around the curve near his driveway.
The council all agreed the road traffic is dangerous.
“We’ve got to take some action,” said council member Mike Chisum, who lives in that area and drives the road often. He said he personally experienced the dangers: motorists behind his car who are impatient, tailgating and honking to get past him; people texting while driving; lots of “rolling stops” on side roads at Grizzly; kids playing on the edges of the road and spilling into the street; potholes here and there; the bright sun rising in the morning and making it almost impossible to see.
City Engineer Jon Halter said traffic volume is definitely a problem on Grizzly, based on four speed studies undertaken in the past six or seven years.
The city can install stop signs if it chooses without having to do a speed study, Halter noted. Trouble with stop signs, he added, is some motorists stop for them, then just speed up even more after stopping.
Some possible solutions, Halter suggested, could include striping in the middle, a center island, radar-feedback signage, speed bumps and adding sidewalks. But, he added, some residents want one solution or another while other residents don’t want that same solution.
An ultimate solution, he noted, is the future construction of an east-west connector road people could use instead of Grizzly Lane.
Mayor Ryan Fitzthum said Grizzly must be fixed but in a way or ways that can be done in other neighborhoods because many other neighborhoods, he said, have the same traffic concerns.
“I traveled on Grizzly last weekend, and it was horrendous.” Fitzthum said.
Council member Kolb said this is not the time for more studies.
“Let’s get some stop signs out there right away,” he said. “At least that might get the message across that this (Grizzly Lane) is no thoroughfare. And maybe put in sidewalks later.”
The council agreed to put the subject on the agenda for the April 13 council meeting so all options for safety can be explored and then, shortly after, the options could be implemented.