The council chambers were a little more crowded than usual when the City Council met on Tuesday night, March 14.

The council chambers were a little more crowded than usual when the City Council met on Tuesday night, March 14. The presence of two Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) representatives, there to discuss the likely removal of the stoplights at the First Avenue and Highway 14 intersection, was an apparent drawing card.

MnDOT will resurface Highway 14 through town in 2018, and had informed the city of their plan to remove the traffic signals.

Scott Thompson, Traffic Engineer for MnDOT District 7, presented the reasons for removing the signal. He said the signals are well beyond their expected service life of 30 years, as are many throughout the highway system. “We’ve decided to replace the old signals as we do road projects,” he said. “But we need to decide if signals are warranted before replacing them with new ones.”

Thompson said that the traffic signals at the intersection of Highways 14 and 4 would be replaced, based on traffic volume criteria, but the First Avenue intersection traffic volume does not meet the guidelines.

Thompson said traffic studies show that unwarranted traffic signals cause more crashes, increase delays and actually increase the chance of crashes involving pedestrians.

The plan Thompson presented would include the installation of a motion activated Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon (RRFB) pedestrian crossing system to notify motorists of pedestrian activity in the crosswalk. He said the flashing lights resemble those on police and emergency vehicles—very noticeable.

Concerns raised mostly centered around the safety of children crossing the highway there, traveling to school or the waterpark. Thompson, and MnDOT Project Manager Robert Jones (who will oversee the Highway 14 project) gave examples of similar projects.

They said there are 13 RRFB systems employed in the district, the oldest in place for five years, installed near schools, a waterpark, and a walking trail, with no accidents. The projects referenced were in Gaylord, Winthrop and Worthington, on busy state highways. “Everyone has been satisfied,” said Thompson.

The process, to begin this spring, will include the following steps: the traffic signal will be deactivated, but kept in place, for a 90-day evaluation period; public outreach (education) will be conducted; the RRFB system will be installed along with the two-way stop signs on First Avenue.

The evaluation will include MnDOT cameras and local law enforcement observations, after which a decision will be made on making the removal of the traffic signals permanent—an outcome Thompson anticipates based on experience in other towns.

Other business:

The council approved purchase of playground equipment for Prairieview Park.

City Attorney Alissa Fischer gave the council requested information on options for the municipal liquor store: They can close it and issue a license for an offsale liquor business; they can limit that to one license; the license fee is capped at $800. There was no action on this issue.