By Brandi Makusi
City leaders are considering the removal of traffic signals at Church St. and Centerpoint Drive.
The roadway, which is a one-way westbound thoroughfare, once commanded a heavier traffic count during the Centerpoint Mall’s heyday. The mall was razed in 2012 and today is home to Mid-State Technical College.
Now, the traffic lights are more of an annoyance than an effective way to control traffic.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at that light, waiting for the light to change, and there was no oncoming traffic,” said Scott Schatschneider, director of public works for the city. “I think we’re at a point where it doesn’t necessarily make sense to have that light there anymore.”
Schatschneider said the process of removing the traffic signals — which also controls traffic from the south on Church St. — is a lengthy one. First, the city needs approval from the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation
“We should be hearing back from DOT, on their blessing that those signals aren’t warranted, within the new few weeks,” Schatschneider said. “Then we can start the process of eliminating that signal.”
After approval from the DOT, Schatschneider said, the city must advertise a public notice in local media outlets warning of the change. Following that, the light will be covered with a bag for several weeks before it can be removed. Westbound traffic will only be controlled with a pedestrian crossing signal, and traffic from the south will encounter a stop sign at Church Street.
Driving options in the downtown area have become more fluid in recent years, which has also eased the traffic burden on the pothole-laden Centerpoint Drive. In 2010, angled parking was introduced on Main Street. Two years later, the completed extension of Third St. opened between Main St. and Centerpoint, which allowed traffic to enter Main St. from the north, creating another entryway into the downtown.
Schatschneider said the intersection is heavily-used by pedestrians, including residents of the downtown Hi-Rise, most of whom are elderly or disabled.
“We have a unique user group who uses that intersection. They are on our radar, and we want to make sure folks can safely cross,” Schatschneider said, adding a rapid flash beacon, identical to what’s been planned for the crosswalk at Franklin and Division streets, would be his first choice for use on Centerpoint Drive.
Schatschnedier the city will need to consider all options for pedestrians who use the intersection prior removing the traffic signal’s removal.
For now, Schatschneider said all the city can do is wait for approval.
“Would it be great for [the DOT] to come back before the April [Board of] Public Works? Yes, but I’m not going to hold my breath,” Schatschneider said. “I’d expect by May we’d have something on the agenda.”