Diet trims Minot’s 16th Street
City reports function better than expected
Motorists have had a few weeks to drive the new road diet on 16th Street, and Minot city engineers are pleased with how things are going.
“Right now, it seems to be functioning actually better than what we thought it would,” City Engineer Lance Meyer said.
The Minot City Council in March approved a “diet” for the street, which involved new striping that occurred during a chip-seal project in July on the stretch from Fourth Avenue Northwest to the bridge at Second Avenue Southwest. At that time, the city placed temporary striping that reduced the four lanes of traffic to three lanes. Instead of two in each direction, there now is one lane in each direction and a center turn lane. An eight-inch white line marks a new bike lane on the edge of the roadway.
Meyer said once the asphalt fully cures, which should be soon, the roadway will be grooved for permanent striping to be placed.
A three-lane road can handle up to 18,000 to 20,000 vehicles a day, Meyer said. The northern stretch of 16th Street, above the Burdick Expressway intersection, carries about 7,000 to 9,000 vehicles a day, he said. The area is built-out, with no projection for significant traffic increases, even with a new high school being built to the north, he added.
“So we have all this extra capacity that we can do some other things with and help clean up some of the safety issues that we’re having,” he said.
Meyer explained the most common accident type on 16th Street north of Burdick has been sideswipes, particularly around curves. Rear-end crashes also have been a problem because of the lack of dedicated turn lanes and the use of the inside driving lane for left turns.
Since creating two lanes of traffic with a center turn lane, traffic has continued to flow without issues, Meyer said. The city’s traffic engineer has been monitoring traffic on16th Street at the lights at Second Avenue Southwest, and it appears traffic is getting through the lights in one cycle despite one lane instead of two in each direction, he said.
“It’s worked actually better than we thought and so we’re pretty happy with the result. But we’ll keep monitoring it. Right now we’re not seeing any delay issues,” Meyer said. “If we would have any issues where we have to lengthen the cycle to get that queue of cars through, we can do that. But so far, everything’s been operating really well.”
He noted the changes have resolved problems with traffic delays and queueing caused by vehicles paused in the left lane at Central Avenue because of sight distance issues that make motorists cautious in turning.
The cost of the street diet has been minimal because it simply involves striping.
In the future, the street diet will continue south on 16th Street Southwest to Burdick. The street diet will gradually phase out on the north side of that intersection.
“When people think of 16th Street, they think of the traffic levels that we have down by the mall and by Minot High,” Meyer said. “They think it’s like that the entire corridor, but it’s really not. South of Burdick Expressway, 16th Street is a different roadway. The traffic volumes pick up substantially.
“But north of Burdick, as it goes up to North Hill, the traffic volumes are half of what they are in south Minot. So that’s why a project like this works.”
Public reaction to the street diet has been mixed. Some residents don’t like the change or are concerned about losing capacity and creating congestion, but Meyer said there are ways to optimize the roadway that preclude the need to add lanes to address traffic flow.
Some motorists like the street diet because it has calmed, or slowed, the traffic, he added.
“It is signed for 25 miles an hour there, but the average speed was much higher than that. So this is one of the effects of the safety improvement is to normalize the speed,” Meyer said.
Some residents have questioned the bike route that doesn’t yet connect with other bike routes.
Meyer said there is a long-term vision for connected bikeways, but they must be constructed in phases as money becomes available.
“This one section right now sits on its own. But when we do the other section, we connect into our park and trail system by the flood control improvements and the golf courses. Now you’re able to start having sections of the city that are all interconnected for bikes and pedestrians,” Meyer said.
Meyer said pedestrian enhancements are planned but not yet designed for 16th Street. At one time, residents in the area asked for a safer crossing across four lanes of traffic to get children to Perkett School. With the flood protection buyouts and reduction in the number of homes, the decrease in the number of lanes alone may make it safer, he said. However, a pedestrian island in the middle of the roadway could enhance that crossing, he said.
The next diet phase will occur during reconstruction of 16th Street from Second Avenue Southwest to 14th Avenue Southwest, near Southwest Knolls. Traffic signals at Second Avenue and 11th Avenue will be replaced. There are plans to add a new turn lane at 14th Avenue.
The city is looking at potentially dieting 16th Street north to 21st Avenue in time.
A street diet concept could work in other areas of Minot and is being considered for Third Street near the Ward County Courthouse, Meyer said. That street is scheduled for reconstruction once the flood control project finishes in the downtown area. The current four lanes carry about 4,000 vehicles a day, leaving extra capacity that can be used in different ways while making the street for safer pedestrian crossings, he said.
Fourth Avenue Northwest is another four-lane street with less traffic than 16th Street, he said. A street diet there would allow for better left turns at the numerous intersections along that roadway. The most western portion of that roadway could be considered for a diet when chip-sealing is done next year, but portions of the street used by flood protection construction traffic would wait for completion of the Maple Diversion.
Before any projects are programmed, city staff will document crashes, traffic movement and other roadway data to present to the city council. The 16th Street diet proposal also had been peer-reviewed by the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
“Overall, these things are proven to work. They’re done all over the country,” Meyer said. “These are pretty common projects.”
The three-lane concept could be useful in other areas where increased capacity is needed but right-of-way doesn’t exist to add lanes, Meyer said.
“You’re going to have to work with what you have and use some tools to try to add some capacity to these roadways,” he said. “It’s much more cost effective to do it with paint than to do it in other ways and add more lanes.”