On the road to safety: City works toward safer streets
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — The city of Marshfield is working toward safer streets in upcoming reconstruction projects.
Safety needs are often brought to light through accident and traffic data maintained by city, state, and county organizations.
“What I am looking at is the number of accidents that we had in 1996, which was 524, and then take a look at the trend,” said Marshfield City Engineer Tom Turchi. “Are we doing things correctly? Are we helping the city to reduce the total traffic crashes? As you can see as we move forward, those crashes have been reduced at about 3 percent per year.”
Using the data, Turchi looks into adjustments that could be made to keep with state and national standards while improving the safety of the pedestrians and motorized and nonmotorized vehicles.
“What we take a look at is, ‘How can we make things better?’” Turchi said. “If we are doing a project, we want to take a look at each of the individual intersections, take a look at that corridor, and see if there is a trend that may stand out that could be fixed by modifying the intersection when we do the reconstruction, and by doing that we have been able to slowly and surely make changes that have been a positive, and we’ve been seeing that (in the numbers).”
Peach Avenue and Fourth Street intersection
The city is currently rebuilding the Peach Avenue and Fourth Street intersection, which has rerouted traffic through side streets.
“We are upgrading the traffic signals at that intersection,” Turchi said. “There are several things that we are looking at there. We looked at the turn lanes. We took a look at the traffic crashes. The big thing is that the signals at that intersection are outdated. They are the oldest signals that we have in circulation, and the control cabinet has been hit twice.
“Most of the corners are going to be exactly the same, but … that slip lane is going to be removed because when we did the (Veterans) Parkway project, we removed about 72 percent of the traffic on Fourth Street.
“We were seeing 11,000 cars a day, and now it’s 70 percent less, so that slip lane is no longer needed. So what we wanted to do is tighten the intersection up to put the new signals, new poles, and equipment in the correct locations — instead of sitting on an island that gets run over quite a bit — and also make the crossing safer for kids so that the distances that they have to walk in this area will be shorter versus what was there previously.”
The traffic signals will be brought up with the most current standard, and controllers will be able to determine when a vehicle is present.
“Because this intersection was pretimed, there was nothing for the controller to know if vehicles were there,” Turchi added. “This intersection is going to go to the next step for us for technology, and we are going to use video detection for this. I calculated the difference between putting loop detection and video detection, and it was almost the same cost, but video detection can be set up in one day where the loop detection would probably take us four weeks to get it all set up.”
The project is set to be concluded before the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
Doege Street and Central Avenue intersection
What Turchi has determined to be the most hazardous intersection in the city, Doege Street and Central Avenue, will undergo changes in 2018 to make it safer.
“In … 2016 that intersection had 12 accidents, and there were 36 accidents in that five-year (period) prior,” said Turchi.
Those statistics result in a 1.32 per million vehicles crash rate for an intersection that receives some 15,000 vehicles per day. The state average is 1.0 per million.
Turchi said that the majority of the crashes at Doege and Central are rear-end collisions on left-hand turns. By adding segregated left turn lanes, the turning vehicles will be eliminated from the through traffic, which Turchi said would eliminate many rear-end crashes.
“Just by putting the protected left-turn lane in there, I am anticipating that we will see probably a 36 percent reduction in crashes. That is just an estimate,” Turchi added.
When a reconstruction project was introduced for the section of Central Avenue between Harrison and Arnold Streets, Turchi made the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) aware of the safety aspects that needed to be addressed.
Reconstruction will begin in 2018. The Wisconsin DOT will pay for improvements and be in charge of the project. Construction will be completed under traffic.
“There is a lot of thought and design that goes into these projects as we try to make an intersection as safe as possible,” Turchi explained. “You take a look at where are your signals located, where are your stop bars located, and everything kind of fits with everything else. What we try to do is bring it to the newest standard set forth by the federal highway administration and then take a look at how we can make things safer. … We do what we can to try to reduce crashes.”