St. Boni tackles Wildwood Ave. parking

By Lorrie Ham
For The Patriot

When the people speak in St. Bonifacius, the council listens – at least in the case of a resolution involving no parking on Wildwood Avenue. At the June 7 meeting, the council unanimously voted to reconsider, and then rescind, action taken in May to prohibit parking on both sides of Wildwood Avenue.

On a 4-1 vote on May 17, with Mayor Shawn Ruotsinoja opposed, the council approved a no parking zone on Wildwood Avenue on both sides of the street from Tower Street to the western city line. In discussion with property owners on the street who had concerns about alleged high vehicle speeds and traffic, the council had authorized additional speed limit signs, school zone signs, crosswalks and striping. The council resolution stated that no parking areas were necessary due to the striping of the required 11-foot travel lanes, which did not leave sufficient room for on-street parking.

Wildwood residents were not happy to learn about the no parking designation and instead presented a survey signed by 30 area residents, most of them on Wildwood, opposing the no parking ordinance and asking the council to reinstate on-street parking.

“It was quite a surprise to find out that parking was being eliminated on Wildwood,” said Lee Paulson, who initiated the petition. “How did you make the leap from speed bumps and striping to eliminating parking?”

Paulson compared the striping plan of two 11-foot traffic lanes and a five-foot striped shoulder on each side to the striping used on Highway 7. “That plan seems more likely to increase speed than decrease it,” he added.

Dave Segner said the purpose of the original meeting regarding Wildwood was to address speed and volume of traffic concerns. “I find it hard to believe that we need two walking paths,” he said and suggested that the installation of flashing lights would be a better use of tax dollars.

Mayor Ruotsinoja noted that the striped fog lines were suggested to create a visual lane at a reasonable cost and provide walking space. “But what I’m hearing is that the residents on Wildwood want parking on the street,” he said.

The council unanimously took action to first reconsider and then rescind their previous action prohibiting parking on Wildwood. Residents on Wildwood had their parking back. As part of the motion, the council will drop the striping plan with the exception of planned crosswalks and designated parking spaces near the school and park.

Since there were so many people from Wildwood at the meeting, Councilmember Mary Bishop said she’d like to hear how the residents wanted to address the issues on their street. She asked how many residents would like to restrict the traffic on the street and nearly every hand went up.

“Volume is the main issue,” said Sandra Meier, who said that commuters use Wildwood as a cut-off and alternative to the Highway 7 intersection. “I think restricting traffic and marking the road for no through traffic is the only way.”

Chris Haertl said he thinks increased police presence and enforcement has made a difference. “Nothing like a good speed ticket to make people think twice,” he said.

Mayor Ruotsinoja said the city has asked the police department to continue monitoring the traffic on Wildwood. He suggested that another public meeting would be in order to discuss the options and the council agreed.

At earlier public meetings on the topic, some residents asked the council to consider closing the west end of Wildwood where it intersects with Highway 7. Representatives from the police and fire departments opposed that move, citing concerns about public safety.