BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison City Council is close to permanently changing the traffic flow on 15th Street through Fort Madison.
With stop signs being removed on 15th at Avenues F and G during Bus. 61 reconstruction this year, the majority of the council is in favor of making that move permanent with the caveat that the intersection at 15th and Avenue E become a permanent 4-way stop.
Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker and Councilman Mark Lair voted against pulling the stop signs due to safety of children moving about that area.
“I’m still not thrilled about removing the stop signs there,” Bowker said. “I think we have an elementary school K-3 just a couple blocks from that and there are kids walking and crossing there. I’m just not thrilled with the fact that they will have to navigate that.”
The idea was born out of a Public Safety committee review of the traffic flow from 15th Street north to the city limits.
Councilman Tom Schulz said he spent close to three hours since the last City Council meeting watching the intersections and said he never saw more than six children crossing at one time. He said generally it was closer to three at any one time.
“There is considerably more traffic crossing 15th Street at Avenue E and some of that traffic we’ve driven that way because of the current traffic situation in town,” Schulz said.
“Even with that school closing, the drop off location for buses will be basically the same location. 14th Street has the most traffic back and forth across the street and I would like to know if the school system would have a crosswalk there for the bus stop even though they won’t have a school.”
Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said the Public Safety committee was looking to capitalize on the insight that the detour has provided with regard to city traffic in the area.
“It’s a Farm-to-Market road on 15th that connects the business route and the county highway. We’re looking to maintain a roadway that allows adequate flow of vehicles without impeding it unnecessarily.”
Bowker said Avenue G is a busy street and has stop signs at the end of every block.
Rohloff said the city has other options to get another opinion on the value of the changes.
“The 64,000-dollar question is what is the criteria the city wants to use for decision making when it comes to traffic regulation,” Rohloff said.
“We’ve had an opportunity to view things here with the detoured traffic, but you can always contract an engineering firm at city expense or use Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission. Those are the options you have.
“I don’t have a dog in this fight. That’s all I can offer you is our personal observations and a professional recommendation. I present the recommendation from the committee that the signage be removed.”
Councilman Chad Cangas said the committee spent a lot of time looking at the balance between traffic flow and safety concerns of people being able to cross the street.
“When we talk about safety of the children that’s a big deal for everyone, but we can’t put stop signs at every intersection. It was my hope that this would push foot traffic to 15th and E where everyone is stopping and watching,” he said.
The council also voted 7-0 on a first reading to change city code to make 15th and Avenue E a permanent four-way stop. That move will still require two more readings. The removal of the stop signs on 15th at Avenues F and G still requires one more reading.
In other action, the council:
•voted 7-0 to extend the YMCA’s management of the city pool for an additional three years.
•voted 7-0 to offer electric car charges for 12 months at no charge to users to gauge usage.
•voted 7-0 to approve an agreement with Solum Lang Architects LLC of Cedar Rapids to design two buildings for the city Fire Department and Public Works department.