Plans to turn Stout Road from four lanes into three with a center turn lane were approved Monday by the Menomonie city council.
From 6th Street to 21st Street, Stout Road would be two lanes of traffic with a center turn lane, two bike lanes and two pedestrian crossings. The motion was approved by an 8-0 vote.
The project will cost slightly less city $5,000, Public Works Director Randy Eide said. The $1.89 million project would include $1.62 million from federal funding and $266, 000 from the state. The project is a part of federal safety grant funding.
The project could be slated for the next few years, Eide said.
“It’s four lanes and it’s pretty busy and I just don’t know how you can shrink it down,” council member Randy Sommerfield said. “There isn’t that many people making left-hand turns other than to Culver’s and Kwik Trip and the motorcycle place. I don’t know how that’s going to relieve any of the traffic if you squash two lanes into one.”
Traffic will back up, Eide said, but the goal is to create two safe crossings for pedestrians. There aren’t many safe places for individuals in the neighborhoods on either side of the road to cross, Eide added.
If the city wanted to expand the road to five lanes, it would be through a different program than it is receiving funding for the approved project and the city would be on the hook for much of it.
“What you are going to gain here is a new surface and a slower flow of traffic, but safer turning movements and pedestrian crossings both ways,” Eide said. “You’re going to gain in safety what you lose a little bit in inconvenience on traffic flow.”
If the city were to resurface the road but keep the same lane design, Menomonie would need to fund the project itself. Much of the cost of the project is resurfacing, Eide said.
There would be less vehicle traffic from the surrounding neighborhood if the street was easier to cross on foot, council member Ryland Erdman said. He said the project would make it more organized at this section of the road.
“It’s not uncommon to have three cars in front of me making a left-hand turn and all the traffic at the point is stopped in one lane...” Erdman said. “I’m surprised there is not more accidents out there already just from the large number of people that are stopping in traffic to wait a minute so they can make a left-hand turn across two lanes.”
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Eide added that the Department of Transportation did study how traffic flow would be impacted by the changes and determined there wouldn’t a significant issue.
The council also discussed a recent wheel tax proposal brought before the Dunn County board. The tax proposed would be $20 for each vehicle registered in the county beginning in 2020. The proposal will be voted on at the county board’s November meeting.
More than 40 percent of the vehicles of Dunn County reside in the city and it wouldn’t receive a share of the funding, Mayor Randy Knaack said. There was no discussion between the city and county, Knaack said, and the proposed tax was a surprise.
The council briefly discussed a low fee for the city if the county might lower its vehicle registration fee.
“I think once you get past $20 it’s going to add up for some families,” Knaack said.
Money raised through the tax must be used on county highways, but no funding would be for county highways that run through the city.
The city is responsible for county highways that pass through the city, City Administrator Lowell Prange said. The city receives $2,300 per mile in funding to maintain the roads.
“There is $300,000 of extra fees being generated out of the community which is kind of like a tax and it’s not being used on city purposes,” Prange said.
There was no direction from the council and the mayor and staff will discuss the matter further before bringing it before the council again.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 21.