City works to ensure smooth traffic flow

The City of Minot is hoping a transportation study will answer questions about how to best ensure smooth traffic flow around the growing city.

The engineering department will be reviewing proposals from consulting firms interested in conducting the study and will make a recommendation to the Minot City Council.

Because of its comprehensive nature, the study is expected to take about a year to complete.

“In the meantime, we are just trying to do our own in-house studies,” said city traffic engineer Stephanie Harman.

Traffic counts conducted by the North Dakota Department of Transportation last fall show that traffic in parts of south Minot continues to increase while areas in north Minot also are getting busier due to new development.

A count conducted west of South Broadway on 37th Avenue near Walmart in the fall of 2012 showed traffic was up 79 percent from 2008 and 31 percent from the spring of 2011. There were 11,260 vehicles recorded during a one-day check in 2012. Traffic on 16th Street near Dakota Square Mall was up 23 percent in four years and 17 percent in just over a year with 16,145 vehicles per day counted in 2012.

City engineer Lance Meyer told a city committee recently that the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass is almost at capacity, raising the possibility that the road might someday warrant four-laning.

Compared to spring 2011 counts, last fall’s traffic counts on the Highway 83 Bypass are as much as 73 percent higher at the north end, where considerable development has been taking place. The bypass also recorded 44 percent more vehicles at the entrance to U.S. Highway 2 & 52.

The transportation study will look at the city’s collector and minor arterial streets and capacities at the busiest intersections, Harman said. Also, a primary focus of the study will be on roads needed in new development areas and in the two-mile jurisdictional area, she said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is providing a $105,000 grant toward the $380,000 study.

At the time the 2012 count was taken, a portion of South Broadway was under construction, a situation that typically prompts people to seek out alternative routes. Although counters showed 25,490 vehicles a day on Broadway south of the Hal Davies interchange at the U.S. 2 & 52 Bypass, Harman said the current estimate at that location is about 35,000 vehicles a day.

The city has been implementing smaller changes with traffic control features to try to reduce congestion where problems have cropped up.

Harman said the city continues to look for areas for areas where left-turn signals might be warranted. One intersection where they are warranted and the public would like to see them is at 16th Avenue and South Broadway.

Harman said the issue is bigger than just traffic counts, though. Left-turn signals would affect the flow of traffic and could reduce the service level to an unacceptable degree at that intersection.

“We have done some delay studies and, basically, it says it should be installed but it may not be the best thing to do,” Harman said. “The best we can do is try to fix the timing a little bit to try to give some more time for those left turns.”

Harman said the 20th Avenue intersection also has been problematic, with motorists sometimes waiting two to three lights to make a left turn onto South Broadway. A comparison with past years shows traffic on the avenue east of Broadway was up 21 percent from the 2008 count and 6.5 percent from 2011. The count showed 11,195 vehicles on 20th Avenue east of Broadway and 13,070 vehicles west of Broadway.

The city’s busiest intersection continues to be the crossing of South Broadway and Burdick Expressway. The 2012 daily count recorded 30,705 southbound vehicles on Broadway and 12,515 westbound and 15,880 eastbound vehicles on Burdick.

As Minot International Airport has upped its activity, North Broadway near the airport has seen traffic increase 31 percent from the spring of 2011. About 16,500 vehicles were counted in that area in 2012. The 1,600 trucks counted in 2012 is up 18.5 percent from 2011 and 39 percent from 2008 on that portion of Broadway.