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West Fargo approves traffic study, examines areas of the city where speeding is excessive

A new policy will guide staff when considering traffic calming measures

011922.N.WF.TrafficCalming
Traffic moves along 9th Street East in West Fargo on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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WEST FARGO — Speedy drivers in West Fargo may soon have to slow their roll when going through residential areas.

The West Fargo City Commission approved a new policy that will allow engineering and other city staff to consider installing street features that would cause drivers to slow down in areas that neighbors have made numerous complaints regarding petal-to-the-medal drivers.

At the City Commission's Monday, Jan. 17, meeting, City Planner Malachi Petersen and Luke Champas,
associate transportation planner at Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments presented the findings of a joint study done last year. The study examined streets that had reported numerous complaints regarding speeding and identified the top offenders.

"Anytime anyone calls us about speeding, they kinda believe that their street should be the priority or is the worst," Petersen said. "This kind of gives us an objective view. We’ll formalize the process a little more and that will just help staff in the future when it comes to these types of things."

The study identified six locations that could be considered for traffic calming measures in the future:

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  • Second Street East, south of 32nd Avenue East
  • 15th Avenue East between Sixth and Ninth Streets
  • 16 Street East, south of 13th Avenue East
  • Seventh Street West, between 15th and 19th Avenue West
  • 10th Street West, south of 13th Avenue West
  • Beaton Drive, between Sheyenne Street and Ninth Street East.

The study also found alternative areas for future study such as Bluestem Drive, between 23rd and 32nd Avenues; 38th Avenue West, between Ninth Street West and Sheyenne Street; 11th Street West, between 40th and 52nd Avenues; 47th Avenue West, between Ninth Street West and Sheyenne Street.
"We’re not specifically looking at a project or a certain item, we’re looking at the process. “ City Engineer Dustin Scott said.

Champas said traffic calming measures are how the road is designed and if it has features that alter driver behaviors, or in other words, what makes a driver go slower.

He said traffic calming measures in the study are not such things as speed limits, street signs or traffic lights.
“That requires outside enforcement of your police department and as we know resources are thin,” Champas said.

He added speed limit changes are not always immediately effective. For example, one of the streets, Beaton Drive recently went from 30 mph speed limit to a 25 mph limit but it did not seem to help much.
"There is still a lot of speeding on Beaton Drive,” Champas said. Also, the Department of Transportation decides where items such as traffic lights should be placed and they usually are not factors that will enforce speed.

Petersen said such traffic calming measures as lane narrowing, installing a mini roundabout, speed humps, landscaping, curb extensions, median islands, pavement material, pinch points, diverters and chicanes were studied as potential traffic calming measures.

As part of the study, community engagement occurred between May and August 2021 and 386 residents took surveys about the traffic. The surveys showed that residents supported speed humps and landscaping as the most popular potential traffic calming measures while chicanes and mini-roundabouts were not supported.
Petersen said the planning and zoning committee also did not support mini roundabouts as they "are very unpopular and unsuccessful."

Commissioner Mandy George agreed the mini roundabouts, which she has in her own neighborhood are not very popular.
"The professional and technical opinion is to keep them as an option for now," Petersen said.

Officials said the study looked at speeding as it is a serious problem that can lead to major accidents.
"As speeds increase, the changes of serious injury and death exponentially increase," Champas said.

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The study also found that in many cases across West Fargo, the existing roads are built much wider than the
recommended minimums for an urban neighborhood setting. Driving-lanes range anywhere from 12 to 20-feet wide, the wider driving lanes may be contributing to excessive speeds on residential streets.

Parking lanes that are under used also contribute to speeding, the study found. On-street parking lanes can make the driving lanes appear wider than they actually are, exacerbating the tendency to speed.

The lack of mature boulevard trees in West Fargo may also be a factor on roads with a lot of speeding. Mature boulevard trees help to visually narrow a roadway which can help decrease speeds; but, a majority of
neighborhoods in West Fargo are newly developed and do not have mature trees. The study also noted that neighborhood street connectivity can also be a factor in allowing more speeding.

While the City Commission unanimously approved the traffic calming study, the motion only approves the study as a whole to be used by staff in the future. The commission did not approve any of the specific recommendations or projects. City staff will bring those forward for approval in the future.

“This is just a plan so whatever the recommendations are we are not approving that at this time,” Commissioner Brad Olson said.

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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