Council discusses need for downtown crosswalks

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Prior to the April 19 Monticello City Council meeting, members of the city took a brief tour of various street, sidewalk, and crosswalk issues, particularly along First Street.

     The main reason for the street inspection tour was due to the DOT’s proposed Highway 38 overlay project in 2022. The DOT made several proposed crosswalk and intersection changes to the city for consideration.

     Public Works Director Nick Kahler said the DOT engineer reached out to him concerning making several crosswalks within the downtown district ADA compliant. Mayor Brian Wolken said if the city chose to follow through with all of the DOT’s suggestions, it would be at no cost to the city. However, if the city chose to not make any changes, it has to be documented properly, noting the non-ADA compliance.

     Kahler said the biggest question is the intersection by Styles-N-Smiles at the northeast corner of N. Maple Street and E. First Street.

     “In order to make that corner ADA compliant, they (the DOT) would like to bump that corner out, which would throat the street down a bit,” explained Kahler.

     Council member Chris Lux commented that if the city went along with the Maple Street suggestion, it could take away almost half of the intersection.

     “It would take so much of the roadway,” said Lux.

     “If we were ADA compliant,” said Wolken, “it’d have to turn into a one-way street.”

     “One way with parallel parking,” added Council member Tom Yeoman.

     “I think this is an unrealistic expectation,” continued Wolken. “It would modify the street flow and taking parking away from the downtown district.”

     The other concern is the crosswalk near S. Maple Street and E. First Street, a mid-block crosswalk, by Theisen’s. Kahler and Police Chief Britt Smith felt this particular crosswalk could be eliminated.

     “It was a temporary crosswalk,” noted Kahler.

     Lux asked whether students are still being picked up or dropped off at the old middle school. Smith said yes, but at some point, the school district will demolish the building.

     When it comes to kids crossing First Street, Smith said they’re more accustomed to staying on the east side rather than the Theisen’s corner.

     Council member Scott Brighton suggested the city should eliminate the crosswalk to the east, which would create one or two additional parking spots on the north side of the street.

     In addition, Brighton said once the old school come down, there would be less foot traffic downtown from school kids catching the bus.

     The council was in agreement to keep the crosswalk on the west side of S. Maple Street.

     “Anything we can do to pick up more parking downtown is pretty important,” said Council member Dave Goedken.

     However, Wolken said it was important for the city to balance walkability with parking.

     With the mid-block crosswalk on E. First Street near the pocket park and Grand China, a final decision has yet to be made.

     “It’s a link from the city parking lot (behind the pocket park) on Grand Street,” noted Wolken.

     Goedken said if the city expects people to use the lot and the pocket park, there needs to be a visible crosswalk. Although, Goedken said it would not be far for people to walk up to the Cedar Street/First Street stoplights and cross rather than mid-block.

     Wolken suggested the city canvass downtown businesses, especially in this block, to get their perspective. He said once the Creative Adventure Lab is complete (at the old Dollar General), it would generate more traffic downtown, both drivers and walkers.

     However, this particular crosswalk is not ADA compliant. City Engineer Patrick Schwickerath said he didn’t think it would take much work to bring it into compliance.

     “Most drivers would expect people to cross the street at an intersection and not mid-block,” suggested Schwickerath.

     Kahler said removing the crosswalk could also generate another two parking spots.

     “I’d take parking over a crosswalk,” Goedken said.


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