City and county leaders meet with MnDOT about Robert Street and Broadway, corridor study

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    City of Crookston, Polk County and Minnesota Department of Transportation leaders held an important discussion Monday about the corner of Robert Street and Broadway and the recent pedestrian accident that occurred there, City Administrator Amy Finch said during her report at the City Council meeting this week. Finch noted that the focus that came out of the meeting was trying to find a short-term temporary solution while discussions continue on additional measures that can be taken and how that will be incorporated in the completion of the upcoming corridor study with SRF Consulting Group, who has also pulled in additional team members for pedestrian and bicycle safety considerations.

    MnDOT may consider closing the right only turn lane on Robert Street either with paint or another method and could convert the middle lane to a combination turn and through lane which would create a buffer especially for larger vehicles that are making that turn. Another option would be to evaluate the timing of the signal if there’s enough pedestrian lead time when the walk signal changes compared to when a green light might turn.

    “This team will be meeting no later than two weeks from today if not sooner so that we can provide an update both to the council and the public at our next meeting; if something happens sooner than that I will certainly notify you,” Finch stated.

    Ward 5 Council Member Joe Kresl told Finch that the council has had discussions about that corner many times and, while it is a state highway, the city needs to do their due diligence to let people know the issue is being worked on.

    “We want to make sure the solution that we propose and we bring forward is also not creating other dangers or moving a dangerous incident to another area,” Finch answered. “Additional discussions are being had about signage and increasing awareness and education.”

    Kresl also brought up the Tri-Valley building and how close it is to the street plus how narrow the sidewalks are, and Finch said there are some discussions being had now in the community and with MnDOT about that particular issue and which agencies would be involved in future conversations. Once she has more information she will bring it forward to the council.

    Ward 1 Council Member Kristie Jerde voiced that concerns about the corner are “multi-layered” like with how small the signage is for the bypass. She also wondered if MnDOT has considered only autos and local deliveries and everyone else take the bypass, plus noted there’s been hearsay about insurance making drivers take a certain route which she was “shocked by.”

    “As part of this larger report, kind of really explore those and find the actual answers and not what keeps going around repeating as a narrative that is not necessarily true,” added Jerde.

    Finch said a lot of those items were covered in their discussion Monday and some will happen regardless of the study, and that particular corner will be a focus now more so.

    At-Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten brought up the corner by Dominos saying there are six to eight inch pipes by the streetlights and if drivers go over the curb they know they hit it. He said at the corner of Robert and Broadway there’s plastic “things” and semis wouldn’t know if they hit anything. Finch replied that the intent of the yellow poles were more for a visual.

    “When I look at that, you could put two big steel posts right before, two right in the middle and you could still get your ADA crosswalks, and if they get too close to that they’ll know it,” Vedbraaten suggested for the corner of Robert and Broadway. “Right now we’ve had two accidents that they didn’t know they hit anybody. When you talk about a temporary fix that would be something you could do tomorrow and you could drill a hole and put some posts down there.”

    “Then you’re going to end up with more traffic issues,” thought Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs. “You’d start having trucks hung up on poles.”

    “I’d rather have them hung up then them killing somebody,” Kresl replied.

    Ward 6 Council Member Dylane Klatt wondered if it was outside of the city’s authority to put up sturdy blocks or if the state had to, and said if nothing happens three months from now he thinks they failed. He also asked where the state takes over at the corner and if the city has jurisdiction over the sidewalk, and if they, as a city, could do anything to provide extra safety measures. Finch said she hesitates without MnDOT weighing in and there are certain parameters to follow, adding that the people at their earlier discussion that day were the right people at the table.

    “Doing something doesn’t always mean we’re doing the right thing and I want to be careful that the solution we implement is being considerate of all of those agencies and safety of our patrons,” Finch stated.

    Note: During a phone call with the Times Monday morning, MnDOT Project Manager Matt Upgren said he received the voicemail from the Times about the malfunctioning digital signal on the stoplight at Robert and Broadway and that MnDOT representatives would be taking a look at the signal. He also touched on both temporary and long-term safety options for that corner, and mentioned he has heard from others who have shared ideas like adding concrete posts and more signage both for drivers and pedestrians.

    MnDOT will be meeting with the City of Crookston on October 18, Upgren added.