Historical U intersection’s fate undecided

University officials are deciding what’s best for the intersection of Pleasant Street Southeast and Pillsbury Drive.

Alexandria Chhith

More than half a century ago, the intersection of Pleasant Street Southeast and Pillsbury Drive Southeast served as a hub of the campus trolley line. Now, the intersection will change again to improve traffic flow.

University of Minnesota Parking and Transportation Services officials will choose one of three different construction plans to permanently remodel Pleasant Street Southeast and Pillsbury Drive, between Nicholson and Jones halls on the University’s East Bank.

After the Central Corridor light-rail construction is completed next year, permanent traffic signals could be installed at the intersection. Or it could be turned into a roundabout or a four-way stop, said PTS engineer Yilun Xu.

Over the summer, the University temporarily converted the intersection into a roundabout to test traffic flow.

Jacqueline Brudlos, PTS spokeswoman, said the results of this summer’s experiment are still being studied and a decision hasn’t been made.

Julia Carpenter, a global studies and environmental sciences, policy and management student, said she drove through the experimental roundabout and liked it more than the current configuration.

“It made traffic a lot faster,” she said.

PTS assistant director Sandra Cullen said the future of the intersection depends on pedestrian, bicycle and auto traffic data collected in the spring when the light-rail line opens and buses return to their original routes.

At that point, the area’s traffic lights will be removed and the intersection will become an all-way stop until construction on a permanent solution starts, Cullen said.

Trolley remnants

The fate of the intersection, located in the University’s Old Campus Historic District, could affect the remains of the defunct trolley line, Xu said.

The Inter-Campus line used to carry students between the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses, crossing through the Dinkytown and Como neighborhoods.

Rod Eaton, a volunteer at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, said he wouldn’t oppose construction, but trolley line remains are important to some.

“From the museum’s view, it’s important to keep it,” he said.

For the intersection to be efficient, though, removing the traffic circle might be necessary.

“I don’t want to say [the traffic circle] has to be removed, but it is a possibility because it would provide better geometry,” Xu said.

The intersection needs to change to accommodate drivers and pedestrians better and damaged areas need to be fixed, he said.

“The area [now] has a bad design because the streets are too wide and there are too many confliction points,” Xu said.

If the area is changed into a roundabout, he said, there are two possible designs: one would have bikers riding with motor vehicles, and the other would have a bike lane.