Any lane reductions on Main and Broadway would be several years away and would require state funding, city administrator and mayor stress

    When word first surfaced around three years ago that City of Crookston officials were consulting with the Minnesota Department of Transportation about traffic patterns on U.S. Highway 2 as it becomes Main and Broadway through downtown Crookston, the early characterization of the talks was that Main and Broadway could someday be reduced from three lanes of one-way motorized traffic to two lanes, with a bicycle lane being added.

    As those talks continued and more community leaders and various stakeholders weighed in over the past couple of years, the possible major change in traffic patterns on the two main arteries that go through downtown started being labeled a “road diet.”

    At Monday night’s Crookston City Council Ways & Means Committee meeting, as council members discussed at length the potential adoption of a Downtown Master Plan, City Administrator Shannon Stassen said he prefers the term “traffic-calming” to “road diet” when referring to a potential reduction in motorized traffic lanes on Main and Broadway. Stassen said he’s learned as the discussion has continued that “road diet” seems to “scare some people.”

    Stassen spoke in response to Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee expressing reservations about a reduction in traffic lanes from three to two, and the impact that would have on businesses like Northern Lumber, which has large trucks stop on almost a daily basis to make deliveries, and in the process closes a lane to traffic.

    “The bottom line is we need to slow down traffic,” Stassen said. “(MnDOT) has said Crookston is an ideal candidate for traffic calming, but we wouldn’t enter into this willy-nilly.”

    Using as an example Red Lake River Corridor funding that took 14 years for the State of Minnesota to approve, Stassen said it likely would be many years before traffic lanes on Main and Broadway would be reduced. And, he added, MnDOT would conduct a “demonstration project” on the two arteries before implementing any permanent changes. MnDOT representatives are expected to be in Crookston in October to continue discussions, Stassen said.

    “We’re certainly not going to jump into anything without considering the pitfalls,” he said. “But it’s important not to assume it’s going to be a problem before it is.” Stassen added that he has no “personal agenda” when it comes to the number of traffic lanes on Main and Broadway, and that he’d never heard of the term “road diet” until it was brought to his attention a couple years ago.

    Mayor Wayne Melbye echoed Stassen in stressing that nothing regarding traffic changes is imminent on Main and Broadway, nor is anything happening anytime soon.

    “We will work with (MnDOT) on this and it’s a long, long process,” Melbye said. “They’re not going to put cones out and some spray-paint and change traffic tomorrow. We’re just saying this is something that’s on our minds, and are we open to it being done?”

    Stassen also said any traffic calming measures on Main and Broadway would require state funding, and if the City doesn’t initiate some kind of process, there will be no chance of ever getting that money. “None of this is a given until we get funding,” he said. “If we don’t raise our hand and say we want to look at this and be considered, there’s plenty of other people who will.”

    Fee said he’d like to see some further research done to find a comparable city in the nation that has a traffic situation similar to Crookston’s, and what transpired when they reduced the lanes of traffic on primary, one-way arteries. “There has to be a case study somewhere in the country that’s similar to ours,” he said.