Cheaper, easier options for Main and Broadway traffic calming emerge as apparent favorites

    If the Minnesota Department of Transportation is ever going to actually be involved in a “project” involving downtown Crookston’s two main arteries that reduces the number of motorized traffic lanes and adds a bike lane to make downtown more safe and inviting, MnDOT officials said Wednesday, then the two most logical steps to take involve the city council approving a resolution of support for continuing the process, and a community steering committee being formed.

    Those were the two main takeaways from a Wednesday afternoon meeting at city hall, a routine, periodic session between City officials and MnDOT representatives to discuss a variety of topics that took on more meaning and attracted an audience a couple days after a Monday “focus group” meeting drew more than 30 people and focused solely on potential traffic calming options on Main and Broadway downtown.

    “We heard pretty loud and clear on Monday that people want traffic speeds to slow down downtown, but how we get there, there are lots of strategies to do so,” City Administrator Shannon Stassen said. “Traffic calming takes a lot of different forms, so by no means are we committed to one thing.”

    That said, of the seven options presented Monday by Toole Design of Minneapolis, which is assisting the City and MnDOT at least early on in the process, the preference appears to be for options that are on the far cheaper end of the spectrum and involve nothing on Main and Broadway being reconstructed. An option that would utilize natural buffers like portable planters between the bike lane and two lanes of motorized traffic generated some positive comments.

    Stassen suggested Wednesday that the seven options be whittled to two or three, and he and MnDOT District 2 Planning Director Darren Laesch agreed that a committee, which will likely be fairly large in size, be formed and continue to discuss the matter. Laesch also suggested that it would be good for the city council to pass a resolution supporting not an actual traffic calming project at this point, but simply “looking at alternatives” for the U.S. Highway 2 corridor through downtown Crookston.

    It’s possible that, possibly next summer, some sort of demonstration project will be put in place at some point prior to any official traffic calming project, likely utilizing cones and other temporary markers and markings, to see how the community and those who drive on Main and Broadway react to the changes.

    “That’s definitely a possibility, where we agree on something and then give it a trial run,” Laesch said. “We want to keep this energy going.”

    But, that said, Laesch added that MnDOT doesn’t have the staff resources to commit an inordinate amount of time to Crookston’s downtown traffic calming exploration. Although Toole Design is helping, they haven’t signed on for the long haul, and Laesch suggested that it might be wise at some point to see if some sort of consultant could be retained to assist in the process and conduct some preliminary engineering. “There are a lot of hidden details at the intersections” that would need to be addressed as part of any project,” Laesch explained.    

    It’s likely people will soon be notified by City officials, gauging their interest in serving on the committee. Laesch said he’d be “comfortable with a bigger group” and it was suggested that the downtown business community be well represented.

    “I don’t think we’ll have a problem getting people involved,” Stassen said.