Transportation consulting firm Fehr & Peers has completed a traffic study on the intersection of Blueberry Lane and North Kelsey Street, presenting its finding to the Monroe City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The council initiated discussion about fixes at the intersection of Blueberry and Kelsey in July, after facing backlash over its decision to install a raised section of roadway, known as a “butterfly pork chop.” In addition to the pork chop, the proposal included additional “c-curbing” down the center of North Kelsey Street near the pork chop that would restrict a northbound driver’s ability to drive into the southbound lane to bypass traffic. Residents were largely against the proposal, so council shelved its plans to perform further analysis. 

The traffic study was performed to inform ongoing discussion as to what can be done to enhance safety and improve the flow of traffic at the intersection. It has been widely documented that drivers will drive northbound in the southbound lane of Kelsey Street during times of high congestion to turn left onto Blueberry, which is a safety concern.

The city used $8,000 from its Contingency Fund to pay for the study.

In addition to studying existing conditions at the intersection, Fehr & Peers analyzed four separate intersection improvement alternatives — concepts A, C, E and F. Each concept was studied to determine its potential impacts, including how it would affect neighboring streets and improve safety and congestion.

Presented by Fehr & Peers staffers Carmen Kwan and Kendra Breiland, the study confirmed the issue of drivers traveling on the wrong side of the road to make turns.

“As part of our project we collected video counts during the p.m. period for five days,” Kwan said. “During that time period there were almost 30 instances of vehicles driving in the wrong direction on Kelsey Street to make a left turn onto Blueberry Lane.”

The vehicle counts were collected from 4-6 p.m., and found to be relatively consistent across the five days studied, according to the report.

Concept A includes the changes introduced by the council in July. The alternative would restrict left turns from Blueberry onto North Kelsey and from northbound North Kelsey onto Blueberry, using a raised pork chop installed on Blueberry that would extend out into North Kelsey. The concept includes c-curbing installed down the center of North Kelsey from south of the intersection at Blueberry to the intersection at U.S. 2, with a break to accommodate the railroad crossing.

The total cost of Concept A is estimated at $10,000. It has been noted that implementation of the c-curb in this area would negatively impact nearby business State Roofing, restricting access and potentially increasing turnaround traffic in its parking area. 

Concept C includes the same northbound and eastbound turn restrictions as Concept A, but without the pork chop. The restrictions would be emphasized with signage indicating “No Left Turn” and the c-curbing would be installed down the center of North Kelsey, to deter impatient drivers intent on traveling northbound in southbound lanes. 

The total cost of Concept C is $700. The alternative would produce the same access restrictions at State Roofing as Concept A.

Councilmembers Patsy Cudaback and Ed Davis voiced concerns about impacts to State Roofing, asking if those impacts had been considered in the study. During previous council discussion, State Roofing owner Lance Smith told councilmembers his business would be adversely impacted by the installation of c-curbing, which would make it challenging, if not impossible, for large trucks to get in and out of the yard.

Kwan said the impacts of c-curbing on trucks turning in and out of State Roofing were outside the scope of the study.

When studying concepts A and C, Fehr and Peers performed a travel demand modeling analysis to determine how nearby streets would be impacted by the diverted traffic. Streets impacted by increased traffic would include West Columbia, U.S. 2, Hill Street, 179th Avenue Southeast and Main Street.

Concept E includes widening North Kelsey Street for an additional northbound lane that would start south of the intersection at North Street. Implementing Concept E would result in two northbound lanes from North Street to U.S. 2, with one southbound lane. The option would increase overall capacity at the intersection and not restrict either northbound or eastbound left turn movements.

“This concept would allow for full movements at the intersection, so there’d be no turn restrictions,” Kwan said.

Concept E is being estimated at a total cost of $457,000, largely because it necessitates the purchase of additional right-of-way property. As noted by the city, its primary drawback is that a 20-year analysis indicates significantly longer delays at the intersection. 

Concept F would add a traffic signal at the intersection of Blueberry and North Kelsey. The intersection would be widened to include an eastbound left turn pocket, accommodating traffic turning left onto Blueberry. Additionally, it would protect northbound left turns off Blueberry and widen North Kelsey north of the railroad crossing, resulting in shortened wait times and increased safety.

Concept F is being estimated at $1.2 million, and includes right-of-way acquisition and costs for a traffic signal. Of all the options studied, Concept F performs the best but is complicated by the nearby railroad crossing, according to Fehr & Peers.

“We’re aware that there’s a lot of technical challenges around a private signal there. It’s very expensive, as we’ve seen,” Breiland said. “A big piece of it is its proximity to the railroad, so this wouldn’t be your standard, run-of-the-mill signal.”

The challenge with implementation of Concept F is that intersection improvement at Blueberry and North Kelsey was not included in the city’s recent Comprehensive Plan update, according to city documents. This means capital improvement fees to support the project are not being collected and the city’s ability to receive grant funding could be hindered.

The city has tentatively scheduled a public open house to present its findings on Thursday night, Jan. 12, at Monroe City Hall. For more information about the intersection and to review the traffic study, click here.