photo by K. Vandervort
The stoplights at the intersection of First Ave. and Sheridan Street may be removed, depending on the outcome of a MnDOT analysis.
ELY – The Minnesota Department of Transportation is still studying Sheridan Street traffic and the number of traffic signals needed on the city’s main thoroughfare.
MnDOT District 1 Traffic Engineer Rob Egge addressed the city council during a study session Tuesday night and assured them that the signal at the junction of First Ave. East and Sheridan Street is the only one being considered for removal. “We are not looking at the Central Ave. or Third Street signals,” he said.
MnDOT officials conducted a traffic count last summer, which found that the number of cars, turning-point movements, and several other factors were far below federal guidelines for requiring signal control, Egge said. “This prompted discussion on removing the signal,” he said.
All three signals would have required replacement, at a cost of $200,000 each, within the next five years, he said, which is one reason that MnDOT is assessing the need. The Sheridan Street repavement project, set to begin in July, was also a factor considered in studying traffic signal needs in the city.
Egge said MnDOT plans another traffic study at the intersections this spring and summer with state-of-the art camera equipment. “If we see things that indicate a different conclusion, we will come back and make a different recommendation,” he said.
Egge stressed to council members that MnDot proposes to keep the traffic signals at Central Ave. and Third Street. The cost to replace the remaining signal lights will be split between the state, St. Louis County and the city. Ely’s total cost should be about $150,000 to replace the two signals, Egge said.
He also said that the new signal lights will have sensors that will keep the traffic on Sheridan Street moving unless cross traffic is present.
Mayor Ross Petersen noted the unique nature of Sheridan Street in the summer “with tourists parking on the street, kids getting out of vehicles, people looking for the mukluk store and commercial traffic all at the same time,” he said. “A signal at First Ave. is critical to avoiding more accidents.”
Egge said the camera-based traffic study is cutting-edge technology. “Seeing is believing,” he said.
Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski updated councilor’s on the city’s fund balance and possible changes to the fund balance policy in light of the upcoming audit, scheduled for the end of March. “We will discuss possible recommendations the auditors may have concerning future fund balance designations,” he said.
“We currently have a zero ‘assigned’ fund balance,” he said. “The current fund balance policy requires not less that 25 percent of the next year’s budgeted expenditures be in unassigned reserves,” he said. The League of Minnesota Cities recommends between 35 and 50 percent.
“With fund balance also being set aside as assigned, we may need to adjust the current policy,” he said. “During the audit we will address potential adjustments to the policy and will bring any requested changes to the council.”