Safety trumps parking at busy downtown intersection

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Some changes are in store for the Main Street and Parrish Avenue intersection in downtown Elk River.

The city is looking at eliminating five parking spaces to make room for a right-turn lane for eastbound Main Street traffic wanting to turn south onto Parrish Avenue. The five parking spaces are located along Main Street at the east end of the Granite Shores building, just west of the Main-Parrish intersection.

The view from Granite Shores of the Parrish-Main intersection in downtown Elk River.
The view from Granite Shores of the Parrish-Main intersection in downtown Elk River. Star News file photo

The work is estimated to cost around $15,000.

While Elk River City Council members were concerned about losing five downtown parking spaces, at a work session Monday, they agreed by consensus to proceed with the installing the right-turn lane in the spring of 2014.

City officials see a two-fold benefit: Not having cars parked near the intersection would improve visibility for motorists trying to turn left from Parrish onto Main, while the right-turn lane would help with traffic flow.

City Engineer Justin Femrite had laid out four options for the intersection, which he said continues to generate a high number of complaints related to limited sight distance and overall congestion. There have been 17 reported crashes and many close calls at the intersection in the past five years, Femrite said.

One of the four options on the table was to install a roundabout at Main and Parrish at an estimated cost of $150,000. Femrite believes it would improve the safety and potentially improve some of the capacity challenges of the intersection.

“I don’t think it would solve all of the capacity challenges because a lot of our capacity issues are caused downstream at that Main Street and Trunk Highway 10 (intersection),” he told the council.

But with a roundabout at Main and Parrish, Femrite said motorists traveling north on Parrish looking to turn left on Main would no longer have to watch for traffic from multiple points. Rather, a motorist would just have to yield to traffic in the roundabout before entering it. A roundabout there would also open up space for a longer turn lane for traffic eastbound on Main Street looking to turn left onto Highway 10.

While some council members appeared open to considering a roundabout there in the future, there was no move to proceed with a one at this point.

“I think people are having a hard enough time adjusting to the roundabout we’ve got,” Mayor John Dietz said. “I think one roundabout is about all we can handle.”

The city installed the first roundabout in Elk River this year on Railroad Drive.

The other two options considered but rejected at Main and Parrish were:

•Remove the five parking spots at the east end of the Granite Shores building and stripe the area no parking at a cost less than $500. Femrite said that would make it easier for motorists at the Parrish Avenue stop sign to see traffic traveling east on Main Street. The council considered that option but favored replacing the five vacated parking spots with a right-turn lane rather than a no parking area.

•Add a stop sign at Parrish and Main for motorists traveling east on Main Street. That option would have cost less than $1,000.