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City to upgrade pedestrian crossings

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The city of Winona plans to install new crosswalk markings at six intersections on Broadway, new pedestrian crossing signs with button-activated flashing lights at three intersections, one radar speed-indicating sign, and new pedestrian crossing signs at many other intersections after a vote by the City Council Monday. Council member Pam Eyden also pushed successfully for the council to discuss more substantial — and expensive — pedestrian safety improvements including curb “bump outs” at an upcoming meeting on the city’s long-term spending plan, its capital improvement plan (CIP).

A series of serious pedestrian accidents on Broadway in 2013 and early 2014 spurred the City Council to request a study on potential pedestrian safety improvements. Fifteen months later, traffic engineering consultants hired by city staff unveiled a list of recommendations. They advised the city to upgrade pedestrian crossing signage and crosswalks, but said that those changes alone would not address the fundamental safety problem on Broadway: speeding. To fix that issue, they recommended putting Broadway on a “road diet,” repainting the roadway to convert it from a four-lane road to a three-lane road with two travel lanes and a shared center turning lane. The consultants also recommended adding curb bump outs that would extend the curb at intersections into the parking lane, reducing the distance pedestrians have to cross and making them more visible to cars. Both changes would narrow the roadway and encourage drivers to slow down, consultants said. The plan would have also added bicycle lanes to Broadway. The city leaders and citizens recommended similar changes in the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan.

The cost of adding bump outs, converting Broadway from four to three lanes, and resurfacing the street would be $1.4-$3.6 million. City staff said state funding might be available for those improvements. The cost of the signage and crosswalk improvements approved by the council on Monday is expected to be $62,000.

At a July 20 meeting, the council’s reaction to the consultants’ suggestions was lukewarm. Council members Michelle Alexander, Gerry Krage, and George Borzyskowski opposed converting Broadway into a three-lane street. Mayor Mark Peterson and council member Allyn Thurley said that the time was not right and city should not make such a large investment.

Based on that feedback, city staff recommended a more modest plan for upgrading signage and crosswalk markings. The plan proposed by staff would have funded two button-activated flashing signs with a total cost — along with other improvements — of $52,000. Eyden said that two signs was not enough and proposed adding a third for a total cost of $62,000. She also proposed that the council discuss the Stantec Engineering consultants’ road diet proposal at the city’s CIP meeting in two weeks, “I think Stantec’s recommendations need to be discussed among all of us a little more thoroughly,” Eyden stated. Especially, she continued, because Winona Health; the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce-organized downtown advocacy group, the Main Street Program; and a partnership between Winona County and state public health officials recommended that the city adopt the changes.

Eyden’s proposals passed on a split vote, with Thurley, Peterson, and Krage voting with her and Alexander, Borzyskowski, and Paul Double voting against her motion.

“To start with, two signs are ample,” Borzyskowski said. The city could relocate the signs or add more in the future, if needed, he stated.

“I like the pedestrian-activated push-button signs because it engages the pedestrian rather than just walking into the intersection and assuming they have the right-of-way,” Double said in an interview after the meeting. However, he explained he voted against Eyden’s motion because of the additional $10,000 expense of the extra flashing sign.

Double continued, referring to the cost of the proposed road diet, “My concern with spending $2-$3 million is, who is going to pay for that? … Everybody thinks there is a money tree out there.” However, local government expenditures add up, and if all three Winona local governments — the Winona Area Public Schools, Winona County, and the city — raise taxes to pay for their wish-list items, the impact on local property taxes would be very significant, he stated. He also pointed out that bicyclists do not necessarily pay gas taxes, which help fund repairs to state aid streets like Broadway.

The three pedestrian crossing signs with button-activated flashing lights will be located at Liberty Street, LaFayette Street, and either Johnson or Washington streets.

Both the three button-activated flashing signs and the one radar speed-indicating sign will be semi-portable. They will be solar-powered units mounted on posts driven into the ground that can be repositioned from time to time. They will, however, be less portable than the trailer-mounted radar signs that police use in some other cities.

City leaders hope the radar sign will encourage motorists to drive under the speed limit.

 

The new crosswalks markings will feature large rectangular blocks reminiscent of the Beatles Abbey Road album cover, which consultants said are the most visible. The new crosswalk marking will be formed out of plastic, giving them a four-year lifespan compared to painted crosswalks, which sometimes do not last a full year, according to City Engineer Brian DeFrang.

 

Courtesy: CHRIS ROGERS

 
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