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Wendy Reuer, Published March 19 2012

Moorhead drives forward with traffic changes

MOORHEAD – Drivers stuck here at a red light while a train moves through town might soon get a break on wait time.

The City Council is moving forward with plans to improve traffic mobility around its rail system. The project could include upgrades to traffic signals, such as pedestrian and vehicle detectors, as well as extending one-ways on 14th Street and 11th Street past the railroad tracks.

Richard Campbell, president of Campbell Technology Corp., said Monday that because Center Avenue splits the railroad tracks, the streets are cleared by the traffic lights on both sides, regardless of which track the train is moving on.

“We have to presume while a train is on the north track, another one could show up on the south track,” Campbell said.

The city’s current railroad preemptive system uses traffic lights to clear the intersections around tracks so that trains can move safely through town and vehicles or pedestrians do not get stuck on the tracks.

However, the preemptive system adds seconds of wait time that quickly add up for drivers at certain lights.

Campbell said extending the one-ways could cut the time the intersection is in preemptive mode by 50 seconds in that area.

“One of the beauties of this: We think we could do a trial implementation of this without big expense,” Campbell said. “We think there are enough merits to give them some consideration.”

Campbell said installing pedestrian and vehicle detectors at intersections could also help traffic move quicker through downtown. Software upgrades in the existing signals could also shave seconds off wait times.

“It’s a combination of a lot of little things; it’s not one big thing we could change here,” Campbell said.

Councilwoman Nancy Otto said she consistently hears from drivers fed up with the traffic light system.

“It’s a big frustration for citizens getting into and out of our downtown,” Otto said.

Campbell estimated traffic light improvements at the five intersections controlled by the city would cost about $58,000 per signal.

Campbell said he could not estimate the cost of extending the one-way streets on Monday. He said additional study of the concept is needed.

Councilman Mark Hintermeyer said the cost of improvements was a “pittance” compared to other projects the city has funded.

“This is something we need to spend time on. We need to fix this as best we can. I say let’s do it all,” Hintermeyer said.

The council met as a committee of the whole Monday, so no formal vote was taken. The council gave Campbell Technology Corp. and City Engineer Bob Zimmerman an informal head-nod to move forward and eventually submit a formal proposal to the council at a future regular meeting. No date has been set.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530