Confusion, complaints resulting from Stacy intersection plan

Chisago County Commissioner Ben Montzka, of Stacy, received an earful from his constituents and neighbors at the Nov. 12 Stacy City Council meeting. The redesign of the Stacy Trail and Forest Boulevard intersection has resulted in consternation, confusion and a cacophony of complaints around Stacy.

The results of a recent traffic study were released to the council prior to the meeting.

“I just want to regroup where this started, and I think this is an example of government gone amuck,” Councilor Jim Ness said. “The county came up with a mythical 11,000 cars a day,”

Ness lives near the intersection. He estimates 5,000 vehicles a day or fewer pass on Forest Boulevard. He also commented to Montzka that the county had botched the turning and the parking at the intersection.

Ness reported that County Engineer Joe Triplett has been telling local business owners that the city will require sidewalks to the Post Office, an installation that could come with a hefty assessment attached.

“This is just out of control,” Ness said. The project to improve the intersection “has gone from a few thousand dollars to a multimillion dollar project. I think we need to tell the county we want what we asked for — flashing lights and a stoplight. All this other stuff is ancillary, and we are wasting taxpayer money.”

Montzka immediately texted Triplett, requesting he come to the meeting. Montzka then confirmed the count at 11,000 vehicles per day.

Councilor Tony Olivolo agreed. Olivolo is employed by Sunrise Auto, which is located at the intersection. He reported seeing larger trucks trying to navigate the corner using the turn lanes and not having much luck.

“That stop sign isn’t going to be there much longer,” he said. “A truck will take it out soon.” No matter how well a vehicle turns, the lane is so tight that an 18-wheeler cannot make it when traffic is backed up at the stop signs, he added.

Stacy Mayor Mark Utecht asked City Engineer Mark Statz how traffic flow is properly measured. Statz advised the council should obtain a more detailed explanation of study methodology and of the results. Statz said typically the study should try to determine an average daily flow over a short period of time. He said he feels the county should re-examine the count.

Utecht agreed. The councilors have a number of questions including if the report contains an actual count or a projection, what time of day was measured, and over what length of time were the counts taken.

Montzka noted resurfacing is a state aid project. He speculated that Triplett is calculating a traffic flow number to meet state aid requirements to qualify for state funding.

Triplett answered Montzka’s text during the meeting. He noted the improvements are a state aid project, so money and project plans are approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The intersection plan could be “unbundled” if the issues can’t be rectified. Triplett confirmed the study results are “valid and accurate.”

He has a plan for the intersection, which he will present to the council.

Utecht addressed the dissatisfaction.

“The best way to handle this is waiting until the intersection plan is ready,” he said.

City officials requested a draft of the proposed intersection with turn lanes and parking.

“Safety is paramount, but (the plan) has to fit into the town as well,” Montzka said.

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