Motorists may see a little relief at the intersection of Blueberry Lane and North Kelsey Street in the very near future.
Monroe Public Works senior engineer Scott Peterson presented findings from the project’s Jan. 12 open house during last Tuesday’s council meeting. Councilmembers then narrowed down the five options to two. One would put a short-term solution in place, while funds are found to alleviate traffic issues in the long run.
One section of North Kelsey Street runs northeast of U.S. Highway 2. It winds up past Fred Meyer, and eventually hits the roundabout on Chain Lake Road. Due south of the train tracks, it abruptly meets Blueberry Lane at a heavily used intersection, where there’s no signage or signals to ease traffic flow. Taking a left turn from either street causes backups.
Proposed price tags for the projects range from $1,000 to $1.4 million.
The first concept would ban left turns altogether, and add some signage and yellow lines. The cost would be about $1,000. One community member who attended the open house wrote they would make illegal turns regardless.
“I would do that tomorrow, that’s just my opinion,” said councilmember Jason Gamble. “For the cost that it is, and then we would pursue trying to look at these other concepts in the long term. But at least we would have an idea on whether or not just putting signs up would help with traffic flow.”
The second concept would install a raised curb and island down Blueberry at a cost of $10,000. The third concept would allow left turns and add another lane of traffic and curb, to the tune of $450,000. The fourth concept would set up traffic lights and cost $1.4 million.
One person said they didn’t feel the need to vote against the concept that would install traffic signals, “because I am so confident that it is so unfeasible that nobody will choose it as their favorite.”
Peterson also explained what a centerline curb down North Kelsey might do. The concept would be to keep people from making left turns out of the Rite Aid and Denny’s parking lots, which sit on opposite corners of North Kelsey and the highway north of the train tracks. He said the intersection has its own problems, and so was kept separate from the other four concepts at the open house.
Gamble said it was valuable to also look at that intersection, which is a regular source of bad backups. Councilmember Patsy Cudaback said she didn’t see the area as a major problem.
“It’s dangerous and it backs things up even farther,” Gamble said.
Councilmember Jim Kamp said his biggest concern is shutting down left-hand turn lanes, even if it’s only enforced for a few hours each day.
“You are doing a major traffic redirection at that point,” he said. “And then we are going to have another major redirection when we start opening them up.”
Councilmember Ed Davis said spending more than $1 million isn’t really an option right now.
“Through the process of elimination, I think concept three [added lane and curb] is the best,” he said. “I think it is going to work better than anything else. It’s kind of expensive. We don’t have the kind of money to just go out and do something like that right now, so we are going to have to work with that. I think two might do nothing more than aggravate people.”
While it was sometimes hard to decipher direct feedback from public comments, Peterson said the plan to add another turn lane and keep left turns open received the most favorable responses. He also looked at many comments made on the event’s social media posts.
Peterson noted Tuesday that because the project is not part of the city’s comprehensive plan, no funds are currently being set aside.
It could take anywhere from 12 months to two years to carry out the third concept, said Mayor Geoffrey Thomas regarding funding. At the end of the night, he directed staff to come up with an item to include during an upcoming meeting, so councilmembers can take action on adding signs and paint for the short term, and another turn lane in the future.