Duluth postpones decision on extension

DULUTH - The Duluth City Council has agreed to postpone indefinitely a decision on proceeding with a controversial extension of Ridgeway Road.

The unanimous vote followed a presentation on the benefits of the proposed extension at the council's Aug. 10 meeting by Pat Smeeton with Jordan, Jones & Goulding, which conducted a transportation study in 2001 to improve traffic flow in the city.

About 20 homeowners who live on or near Ridgeway Road attended the meeting to oppose the extension because it would significantly increase traffic and disrupt their quiet neighborhood. An estimated 560 cars would use the extension daily.

The JJG study recommended the realignment of Ga. Highway 120, construction of the Hospital Connector and the extension of Ridgeway and Davenport roads.

The Ridgeway Road extension would provide another route into downtown Duluth and allow local traffic to avoid congested West Lawrenceville Street and Ga. 120, Smeeton said. The extension also would encourage pedestrian and bicycle travel into downtown, he said.

A roundabout would connect the Ridgeway Road extension with the proposed Hospital Connector linking Ga. 120 to McClure Bridge Road where the former Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital, now a rehabilitation center, is located. Access to Irvindale Road and West Lawrenceville Street also would be provided via the roundabout.

The city sponsored an informational hearing on the Hospital Connector last summer.

"Once we balance out traffic on all these roads, it will make it safer for everyone," Smeeton said.

Ridgeway Road resident Lewis Corley told the council he was "strongly opposed" to the extension. "Five hundred and sixty cars would be a tremendous increase of traffic in my neighborhood, which I don't have right now," he said.

Other residents commented that recent improvements on Pleasant Hill Road and Sugarloaf Parkway have alleviated the need for the Ridgeway Road extension and urged the council to find an alternative for it. They also asked the council to consider constructing the Hospital Connector and assessing its impact on traffic reduction before proceeding with the extension.

A few residents who spoke in favor of the Ridgeway Road extension included Ken Odum, chairman of Duluth's Downtown Development Authority, and DDA Vice Chairman/Treasurer Rob Ponder. The DDA supports the extension, Odum said, "and I support it as a homeowner."

"Having more ways for traffic to flow will make the city better," Ponder said.

Cost of constructing the 1,500-foot Ridgeway Road extension has been estimated at $2 million.