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The County Road 101 Blues: fighting expansion in Wayzata

The expansion of a major city can be a double-edged sword. The need for upgrades in infrastructure to suit a large and growing population regularly butts up against the desire to preserve the character and historical integrity of the city’s past. To see how much growth changes a community, just view Larry Millett’s great book, “Twin Cities Then and Now.” The massive changes to certain neighborhoods is shocking, and in some cases tragic. Lately, with the expansion of small roads to mini-highways and with the growth of massive homes called McMansions, even small neighborhoods have felt the out-of-control growth. I have become a proponent of saving neighborhood uniqueness, but when I discovered where the latest battle lines have been drawn, I’ve decided to take the side of growth. The latest expansion location is County Road 101 in Wayzata, and it needs to be fixed.

At first I was somewhat outraged when I heard they were going to ruin the historical nature of Wayzata’s Bushaway Road, until I started wondering where exactly Bushaway Road is. I lived in Wayzata for two years, and I had no idea where this expansion was going to take place. I discovered Bushaway Road is actually County Road 101, a road desperately needing expansion. Many of Wayzata’s surrounding communities want this stretch of road enlarged, so to try to win public support to stop it, the locals have reverted back to the road’s 1800s name. It’s a sneaky way to portray a major thoroughfare as a quaint country drive. It’s like renaming Interstate 35W Periwinkle Lane, but you’re really not fooling anyone.

A limited project
The county is only planning a glorified repaving of County Road 101 through Wayzata, with an expanded shoulder, a new bike lane and turning lanes at the worst intersections — which makes me wonder why there’s such a fervent opposition. If you’ve ever been on CR 101 between Minnetonka Boulevard and Hwy. 12, you know the need for this expansion. Traffic is consistently backed up, making a two-mile stretch a 30-minute headache on certain days. 

The design of the western metro makes incremental north/south roads necessary. Like Hwy. 100, US 169 and Interstate 494, CR 101 is needed, and because of Lake Minnetonka, is un-routable to any other location.

One of the proposals put forward by the CR 101 neighborhood is to route traffic back to I-494, but this ignores the purpose of having a separate north/south road to the west of 494 in case the Interstate needs to be closed. These valid points are falling upon deaf ears in Wayzata. To them, the growth is unnecessary, the established trees need to be saved,  and the damage to the historic homes is too costly. But in their argument to stop expansion, the Bushaway Road neighborhood’s hypocrisy gets exposed.

Just take a look
For those in Wayzata who live on or near CR 101 who think expansion is unnecessary, I encourage them to look out their front door during the morning and afternoon rush hours or on a nice summer weekend. The bumper-to-bumper traffic is substantial, at a level that should have been addressed years earlier, but it’s the concern for older trees and neighborhood integrity which seems to be the residents new found rallying cry.  How concerned was the Bushaway Road neighborhood about these things when, in the 1980s, in their own neighborhood, people started buying up three original lots, tearing down the “historic” homes and numerous established trees, and building gaudy massive houses more akin to The Hamptons? They even have a new development, Locust Hills, recently built right on CR 101 in Wayzata, where actual historic homes and ancient trees were ripped out to build new million dollar homes, a private lagoon and walking trails.  The Locust Hill website even brags about it.

Many of these Wayzata residents, while acting as if they are standing up for the original settlers, are the ones who twisted the county’s arm to take glorified goat trails around the lake and upgrade them to minor highway status so they could get to their restaurants, stores and marinas at 40 miles per hour. Where was the concern for historical integrity then?

Ignored upgrades elsewhere
Even more hypocritical, many of these residents are the same people who openly encouraged the upgrade of Hwy 12 to become Interstate 394, without one bit of concern over the many “historic” neighborhoods and ancient trees in Minneapolis, Golden Valley, St. Louis Park, Plymouth and Minnetonka, which were destroyed or adversely affected by this growth. To them, that kind of expansion is good for the community, but a bike trail outside of their house, on an already established major road, is county government out of control.

For the record, I’m glad we’re upgrading our highways and major roads, but this points out the irony of this whole situation. You encourage the building of a major highway (394/12) to your front door, but then you don’t want the natural expansion that comes with it. It’s an old term, but it still applies: “You reap what you sow.” The brand new signs posted welcoming people to the “Bushaway Road Historic Neighborhood” are as recent as the residents’ outrage to expansion.

If this were a secluded neighborhood, I’d be the first to side with the residents, but to allow a handful of people to mock the rest of the west metro by insisting their “not in my neighborhood” motivations are instead a last stand for historical integrity is an outhouse wrapped in a McMansion.

Matthew McNeil is the host of a radio show on KSTP AM 1500.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Jon Commers on 12/07/2009 - 09:58 pm.

    Thanks for the article. I want to suggest that a prominent part of this debate is missing – that is, why is there so much pressure on CR101/Bushaway Road? It’s not because the existing developed areas in the Twin Cities can’t accommodate the population growth, it’s about other choices. Come and engage at Strong Towns!

  2. Submitted by Ron Anderson on 12/08/2009 - 11:58 am.

    This is to correct the errors in the article on County Rd 101 in Wayzata. The stretch of the highway between Wayzata Blvd and the Gray’s Bay bridge was officially named “Bushaway Road” by the Wayzata City Council in 1957. Before that the local community referred to the road as “Bushaway Rd” dating back to 1853 when the first settler, John Bourgeois, built a house there. Apparently the anglo-saxtons had a hard time pronoucing Bourgeois.
    The conflict between Hennepin County and the Bushaway residents is not a simple matter of growth versus preservation of scenic and historic resources. The traffic volume on Bushaway has actually been declining over the past 10 years. And the populations of Wayzata and its adjacent communities, Minnetonka, Plymouth, and Orono, have been flat (no growth) in the past few years. Furthermore, the congestion of traffic that we had 5-10 years ago has virtually disappeared. And the vehicle accident rate is very low compared to other roads and intersections in Wayzata. Leaving the road the way it is would not impede growth.
    If the County’s plan were merely to add a sidewalk, modestly widen the shoulders, and to add a few turn lanes, most of the Bushaway residents would go along with the plan. However, the County plan also would take out at least 250 native trees, build retaining walls along most of Bushaway, require landfill in the lagoon and Gray’s Bay, raise the railroad bridge by 3 feet, condemn two homes, and make three more homes uninhabitable.
    Neighborhood opposition to the road reconstruction is not something new for Bushaway. The Community has had to protect resources in the corridor since 1980. During the 1980s the State DOT developed plans for the causeway that included at least 2 acres of landfill in Gray’s Bay plus a totally new causeway in Wayzata Bay, to the West of the current causeway and bridge.
    Many in the Bushaway community have actively opposed development projects such as the Big Woods preservation and the Locust Hills development, so they should not be accused of hypocracy. Without their protests, Gray’s Bay would be much smaller than it is today.

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