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Council votes 3-1 for intersection study

Whether or not the temporary four-way stop at Colfax Avenue and First Street Southeast can become permanent is under review after the Wadena City Council requested a study by county and state officials.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said he had three reasons for supporting the study of the street, which is a county road. Senior citizen pedestrians in the area, fire truck and police car traffic and discouraging semi-truck traffic are all issues he wants the study to consider, he said.

Police Chief Bruce Uselman approached the council with the idea. He said he was concerned about senior citizens from Humphrey Manor crossing the street while walking to downtown as well as seniors walking the other direction from the Commercial Apartments. He also presented a list of 12 traffic accidents the Wadena Police Department has investigated at the intersection over the past four years.

Three of four present council members voted in favor of the study, while Councilman Toby Pierce expressed his opposition.

"I still think it's a lousy idea," he said after Wolden explained his three reasons for supporting the study. "What you're saying is you want the state of Minnesota to come in and tell us what to do. That's what you're saying."

He said he couldn't think of anything more horrible than letting the state make a decision for the city.

Uselman said the purpose of the discussion at the city level is to see if there is support for the four-way before going forward with the study. The traffic engineer may recommend the city not keep the stop signs permanent, he said.

"The state may take a look at that and go there's no reason for us, with our analysis, to warrant a four-way stop," Uselman said.

Wolden pointed out a section in a letter from Wadena County Assistant Engineer Jeff Adolphson that said the report and recommendation would be brought for approval by the city council and the county board.

"I'm not recommending we approve it," Wolden said about the four-way. "I'm recommending we do the study."

The Minnesota Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, specifically sections 2B.5, 2B.6 and 2B.7, must be followed to properly initiate a permanent four-way stop, according to Adolphson's e-mail.

Section 2B.7 says multi-way stop control can be useful as a safety measure at intersections if certain traffic conditions exist such as pedestrians, bicyclists and all road users expecting others to stop. It also gives guidance on the criteria for an engineering study of whether multi-way stops should be used.

In addition to his concerns about state control of the issue, Pierce opposed the four-way stop study because he doesn't think the additional signs are necessary.

"I don't see many senior citizens walking there and I go through there a lot," he said.

The stop signs are a waste of gas, Pierce said.

"Stop signs and stop signals eat gas like mad -- stop and start and sitting there idling," he said.

Councilman Don Niles said he supported the study. He's talked to at least one business owner who thought the temporary stop signs were beneficial in slowing down traffic and allowing people to see the businesses.

Councilwoman Jeanette Baymler said she's gotten four phone calls about the issue, with two in support of maintaining the stop signs and two against.

The four-way stop was installed as a temporary means of traffic control when traffic was detoured during the reconstruction of U.S. Highway 71 this summer and fall.