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Open house gives a preview of Oxford’s new look

WORTHINGTON — Residents had a lot of questions at the second U.S. 59 Worthington Corridor Study open house Thursday.  

The corridor includes Oxford Street from McMillan Street to the Minnesota 60 roundabout and Humiston Avenue from Interstate 90 to Oxford. The study is a joint effort between the city of Worthington, Nobles County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and SRF Consulting created to craft a long-term plan — with feedback from the public — for the corridor’s layout when it is redeveloped in 2025.

At this point in the process, the cross-sections for Oxford Street and Humiston Avenue are nearly finalized, as the public’s favorites have been narrowed down through the online survey, meetings with business owners and feedback at the first open house.

For Humiston, survey data says cross-section C is the most popular. It includes a 10-foot multi-use trail, two six-foot boulevards on each side of the road and a five-foot concrete sidewalk.

For Oxford, section B — which adds two eight-foot multi-use trails, two six-inch boulevards with trees and shortens the medium by two feet — is the most popular configuration.

Many people in attendance were unhappy that both options keep a median intact. There currently is no choice for a cross-section without a median among the final layouts.  

Randy Heeringa, owner of Worthington Monument Works, is unhappy the median was included in all the final options for Oxford. He said it impedes access for many businesses on the street, including his own.

For instance, drivers coming from Iowa on U.S. 59 would enter Oxford driving westbound. The median means that in order to get to Worthington Monument, they have to make a U-turn, as turning on to Marine Avenue or Church Avenue doesn’t help them much.

Heeringa proposed implementing a Sioux Falls, S.D.-style center left-turn lane to allow vehicles to turn into businesses along Oxford at any time.

“Let's say, for instance, I'm in Sioux Falls and I'm heading westbound on 41st, and there’s no cross street right there at all to go the the Original Pancake House, which I happen to like,” he said. “I’ll get into that yellow median, and I can take a left turn.”

Heeringa’s view is believed to be shared by many Worthington residents, but it likely won’t make a difference. The median was kept in from the earliest stages of the study, while a two-way left-turn lane was quickly scrapped.

Forrest Hasty, MnDOT District 7 project manager, said the median was kept strictly for safety reasons.

“The more intersections you have, the more accidents you’re going to have,” Hasty said. “It controls those accesses — it makes it a right-in, right-out scenario. If you reduce access, safety goes up.”

In increasing safety by closing access points, MnDOT has established it will close a significant amount of driveways on Oxford Street to decrease unnecessary access points.

The preliminary list shows 32 access closures across Oxford, including driveways to Burger King, Walgreens and Ace Hardware.

“We will remove some accesses,” Hasty said. “Is this the final list? No, but it’s pretty close to what it will look like.”

There’s one more open house left, scheduled loosely for sometime around April and May, where drafts of everything will be available for public criticism.  

The survey closes Monday. It can still be taken online at http://us59worthingtoncorridor.com.

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