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4-way stop for 'Walmart intersection'

BEMIDJI -- The "Walmart intersection" is about to become a four-way stop.

Currently a two-way stop, the intersection of Hannah Avenue Northwest and 30th Street Northwest -- the intersection outside of Walmart and Northview Manor -- has been approved to become a four-way stop.

The Bemidji City Council unanimously supported the change Tuesday after 31 Northview residents signed a petition requesting the change.

"We have witnessed many accidents, numerous near misses and also a death of one of our residents," the petition states.

While the Bemidji Police Department could not immediately confirm a death, it did report Tuesday nine personal-injury accidents at the intersection since 2005.

Craig Gray, city engineer/public works director, recommended the change after the city conducted its research and submitted it for analysis by a traffic engineer, who also recommended the change.

In one 12-hour period, Gray said, workers counted five near-miss accidents.

It will take a couple of weeks before the change is implemented.

Additional controls at intersections are not appropriate strictly for speed purposes, Gray said after the meeting -- that's what the police department is for -- but this particular intersection met requirements because of the number and seriousness of accidents.

Nonetheless, several councilors pointed out that speed definitely is a concern along Hannah Avenue and 30th Street.

"People do tend to travel quite fast, coming off of Anne Street (onto Hannah)," said Councilor Nancy Erickson. "They have a clear shot all the way through (to Paul Bunyan Drive) without a stop."

She was concerned, though, it may prove problematic to spring the new stop signs on drivers without warning. Erickson suggested a temporary stop sign be put in place, in the middle of the roadway, to give obvious warning of the change, once implemented.

Gray said he would look into that option, as well as the potential for "traffic control change ahead" signage that would be erected in advance of the intersection.

Mayor Rita Albrecht, who said she was aware of a death at the intersection, said she would like to see a pedestrian way or bike lane included along 30th Street, a wider-than-average city street.

Gray said the roadway is included in the city's five-year road plan and his staff surely will look into the best option for such safety measures, suggesting, perhaps, a separated bike path may be possible.

"A wide road translates into high speed and that's probably not the goal there," Albrecht said.

Preliminary levy

The council also set its preliminary tax levy for 2014, setting the levy at $4,169,936, or $7,062 less than 2013.

The preliminary levy may be lower, but cannot be raised, when the final levy is adopted in december.