West Fargo will use special assessments to fund $860K stoplight
Residents will pay for the light at the intersection of Ninth Street West and 32nd Avenue South.
WEST FARGO — West Fargo is planning to install a stoplight at the intersection of Ninth Street West and 32nd Avenue South, but it may cost residents in that neighborhood hundreds of thousands of dollars in special assessments.
The West Fargo City Commission approved an assessment district for the project at its Tuesday, Jan. 3, meeting on a 4-1 vote. The new stoplight is estimated to cost about $860,000 due to a need for "geometric alignment."
West Fargo Engineer Dan Hanson said the alignment is needed for the stoplight because it ensures those making a left hand turn on the flashing yellow, from 32nd Avenue South, can see past other vehicles in the oncoming lanes that are also attempting to make a left-hand turn.
"Doing this geometric change to the intersection will allow us to have better sight lines for drivers and better safety," Hanson said.
He compared the cost of the project to the recent installation of another signal in West Fargo, which was bid for about $530,000 and did not need geometric alignment.
Hanson said the intersection of Ninth Street West and 32nd Avenue South is currently regulated by a two-way stop sign, and traffic often backs up to the north and south, causing delays. He said recent traffic counts warranted the installation of a traffic signal to improve traffic flow and allow for additional growth.
Although no one spoke at Tuesday's public hearing, seven residents submitted protests to the project, which was not enough to constitute stopping it, Hanson said.
One resident said the signal should have been put in with the initial road improvements. However, signals aren't put in until traffic counts warrant signal use, Hanson said. In general, he said, those who submitted protests believed special assessments should not be used for such a project and instead the city should use general funds.
The city will use some capital improvement sales tax funds along with the special assessments to fund the project, but the city did not provide exact estimates to be used from each funding source.
"This intersection is unique in the sense that it is relatively new, and part of it is the (geometric) realignment," Mayor Bernie Dardis said.
City Administrator Tina Fisk said the commission has the option of paying for part or all of the project, which can still be decided at a later time.
"So, it's a discussion that we can have later on," Dardis said.
Hanson said future stoplights in other neighborhoods may also need geometric alignment changes, which will increase the cost, although this specific assessment district will not be assessed for another stoplight anytime soon.
Commissioner Mandy George, who cast the lone dissenting vote, voiced her concern that the city should reconsider assessing for similar projects immediately to try to avoid continued assessments for additional stoplights.
"We can do something about the procedure now," she said.
However, Commissioner Brad Olson dismissed her comments and said the commission can take action later. He said they should approve the special assessment district so that the project can move forward, which the commission then voted to do.