Officials press for traffic solutions

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Local officials continue to press for ways to reduce congestion in Elk River.

The latest wrinkle involved a meeting last month with Minnesota Department of Transporation Commissioner Charles Zelle.

Charles Zelle
Charles Zelle

The meeting was arranged by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake. Local officials who attended included Kiffmeyer, Sherburne County Conmissioner Bruce Anderson of Elk River, Elk River City Administrator Cal Portner, Elk River City Engineer Justin Femrite, Sherburne County Public Works Director John Menter and Sherburne County Engineer Rhonda Lewis.

Femrite said they are encouraging MnDOT to find funds for an adaptive signal control system in Elk River.

The system would adapt to traffic demands on each leg of an intersection, he said. In downtown Elk River, for instance, instead of having a green light for Highway 10 traffic when there are no vehicles, it would sense vehicles waiting on the side street and give them a quick cycle to move through.

Femrite said where they would really expect to see improvements is when the train interupts the signal cycles on Highway 10. “We think it could be more effective at giving the right time to the right movements there and maybe clear that a little bit sooner,” he said.

Adaptive signal control systems are a newer technology, he said. They are being used throughout the nation, including in Wisconsin, which will have adaptive controls at about 100 intersections by the end of this year, he said.

MnDOT is not using the technology anywhere in Minnesota now.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer
Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer

Both Anderson and Kiffmeyer also see some promise in the system.

Anderson said he believes it would really alleviate some congestion in Elk River.

“This would be a positive thing and I think the commissioner knew that,” Anderson said.

At a town hall meeting in Elk River in March, Kiffmeyer said adaptive signal control systems get at the question of instead of building roads, can existing roads be managed better?

“We don’t know for sure, but it’s had a great success in some other places,” she said at that meeting.

Local officials see potential to improve congestion in Elk River if the system was installed on both Highway 10 and Highway 169.

Femrite said the proposed locations include:

•all of the signal lights on Highway 169, plus the local intersections of Main, Zane, and Line by Walmart as well as School Street and Freeport Avenue. Femrite said those signal systems are all interconnected now, which is a requirement of putting in the adaptive controls.

•on Highway 10, the signal lights from Main Street in downtown Elk River west to Upland Avenue, all of which are also interconnected.

Total cost would be under $1 million and likely run in the $600,000 to $700,000 range, Femrite said.