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School lights delayed

Robert and Stacy Voeller live just a couple blocks from S.G.

Robert and Stacy Voeller live just a couple blocks from S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School in Moorhead, where their oldest son will be in second grade next year.

Though the Voellers live so close to Reinertsen their yard is visible through classroom windows, Stacy will once again be driving her son to school every day.

"I'm not happy," she said.

The traffic lights city officials hoped would be in place at intersections near a pair of year-old schools by the time classes start in September won't be installed until this winter.

Parents and school officials protested last fall when two intersections - 40th Avenue South and Eighth Street near Reinertsen and 34th Street and 12th Avenue South near Horizon Middle School - did not have traffic signals.


They said the brisk traffic on Moorhead's burgeoning south side made walking or biking to and from school too dangerous for students.

"You have trouble driving at that corner, let alone walking," Robert Voeller said.

City officials said the decision was not up to them, as the state regulates signals based on the amount of traffic.

The latest traffic studies for the areas had been done in 2002, two years before the schools opened, and did not warrant signal lights.

After conducting new studies that showed traffic was sufficient for signals, the city said in January it planned to have the lights in by the time school starts.

With bidding on the projects now set for late July, City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said the signals likely won't be installed until this winter.

"The process took much, much longer than we expected it would," Zimmerman said. "We're as frustrated as anyone."

After a contractor is picked, it will take two to three months to order and receive the equipment, the city engineer said.


City officials say state approval of the project, needed because Eighth Street is also a state highway, caused the delay.

That's not the case, said Judy Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Jacobs said the city submitted plans to the state in April and MnDOT had them back to the city last week.

Given that MnDOT received the plans during its busiest time of year and had to secure federal approval of the project, Jacobs said the response time was reasonable.

"It's a fairly long, drawn-out process," she said.

Moorhead Superintendent Larry Nybladh said he was surprised and disappointed the signals won't be ready for the start of the school year.

"These traffic signals are very important to the flow of traffic in and out of those school sites," he said.

Because of the danger posed by the intersections, the district gives students attending those schools - even those living less than a mile away who usually can not take the bus - the option of riding the bus, he said.


Nybladh said the district will continue that policy after the signals are installed.

With two younger children who will one day attend Reinertsen, the Voellers hope there are no further delays.

"I would love to have my son bike to school, but it's just too dangerous" Stacy Voeller said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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