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September 17, 2013 | 03:54 PMMain Street may get another set of traffic lights.
The state Department of Transportation gave its approval to a traffic light at Cook and Main streets on Sept. 3, Public Works Director Dan Winkler told the city council’s Public Works Committee on Sept. 11.
“If the city wants to install a traffic signal, it can,” Winkler told the committee.
The committee agreed that a traffic signal was needed, and made a recommendation to the city council. Only Alderman Bill Mott, the committee chairman, voted against it. Contacted by phone on Monday, Mott said he did not want to make an immediate comment, but would explain his vote later.
The recommendation will go to the city council for approval.
Winkler estimated that installation of the new signal would cost between $140,000 to $150,000, including equipment and engineering.
In December, the work on state-of-the-art traffic signals on Main Street at Wells, Center and Broad streets was completed by Pieper Electric Co. Inc., Milwaukee.
The city paid $124,805.50 for the new system that replaced signals at the Main Street intersections, which dated back to 1981 and 1991.
Winkler said the single traffic signal at Cook and Main will be more expensive than the three other traffic signal upgrades because all of the signal equipment at that intersection will be new.
“It will cost more because systems have to be installed for power and new bases have to be laid,” Winkler said in a phone interview on Monday.
The signal operations at Wells, Center and Broad on Main are synchronized. When no vehicles are on the side streets, the lights default to green for east-west traffic on Main.
The purpose of the new signals and the synchronization program was to expedite traffic along Main.
However, it turned out this summer that traffic was still backing up, and the backups were occurring at the intersection of Cook and Main.
Cook and Main is controlled by a stop sign on southbound Cook (which is one way) and signs that warn drivers on Main to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks.
The primary cause of the tie-ups, particularly of traffic westbound, was laid at the feet of pedestrians crossing Main as they went to and from the beach and Library Park.
Because Main is part of state Highway 50, the city had to request permission to install traffic signals from the state DOT and justify its request with a traffic count. Crispell-Snyder Inc., Lake Geneva, did the traffic count for the city.
According to committee member Alderman Gary Hougen, an accident occurred at the intersection of Main and Cook while engineers from Crispell-Snyder were doing the traffic count. The minor traffic accident was apparently caused by pedestrians crossing Main, he said.
During the meeting, Alderwoman Sarah Hill, also a committee member, said she’s in favor of the new signals, but it’s all a matter of timing.
“Consistently, the most complaints I get are these new traffic lights and the timing of the lights,” Hill said.
She said the lights have to be timed so that cross traffic and pedestrians don’t have to wait for long periods before being allowed to cross Main.
Funding for the new signal would come out of tax increment finance district funds.
Mayor Jim Connors said the city should buy the traffic signal hardware to save on sales taxes and contractor markup.