The Grand Forks City Council got around to that painful discussion about the truck route on North 51st Street that I mentioned last week, and it was as painfully dull as expected.
See if you can come up with an elegant solution to this seemingly intractable problem that took something like an hour to wrap up tonight with the promise of possibly as much time spent next week.
Reference this map while I summarize the problem:
For years, there’s been a cluster of businesses at the corner of Gateway Drive and 51st that either services trucks or has trucks servicing them. Eventually, homes were built or, if they’re mobile homes, moved there at some point. I have the feeling the ones just south of that cluster of businesses are the newest, because they look newer.
Now, most of the time, the trucks go south on 51st to access the businesses and then they come out and head north on 51st back to Gateway. No problems there.
Sometimes, they either get lost or the parking lots owned by the businesses are full and they have no way to turn around. Then they get to 10th Avenue North, which is where that cluster of businesses end, and they realize they can’t go farther because the rest of 51st to the south is not open to truck traffic.
Many end up breaking the law anyway because they just physically can’t get back out.
From the way the business owners describe them, they’re mostly out-of-town drivers who lost their way. Since there’s only about one a day that does this, some of the owners say the city should just turn 51st into a one-way truck route that leads down to University Avenue and, from there, presumably on to 55th Street, which isn’t residential and connects to Gateway and DeMers Avenue.
Several council members, Art Bakken and Curt Kreun know what that’s like because either they or their drivers have gotten lost like that in other cities. Art described one of his driver having to have police help him back away from a tunnel in some East Coast city. But, they say, the police never gave the drivers tickets because they only made honest mistakes.
So the options are:
- Make 51st and University a truck-route for exit only.
- Do the above on a temporary basis for a few years to see what it’s like.
- Explicitl y forbid truck traffic on residential sections of 51st. This is the option coming out of committee. Residents of the area aren’t too keen on trucks rumbling down the street.
- Make 51st and 10th a truck route and make it easier to turn from 51st to 10th. Council President Hal Gershman ventured that one because it would impact the smallest number of homes. Of course, changes like that would cost tax dollars.
Bored out of my mind, I said to my friend Casey from WDAZ that maybe they ought to consider another option:
- Put up a sign with GFPD dispatchers’ phone number on it, you know, something like "Are you lost? Can’t turn around? Call ###-####." The cops can escort the driver out. Heck, Public Works is just down the road. A driver who’s not too tied up can come out and help.
- Now that I think about it, maybe a sign at the street corner that says no outlet, so only drivers that are actually going to the businesses turn in there. Apparently, there’s even been drivers headed for the implement dealership in Michigan, N.D., turning into the dealership off of 51st.
City Engineer Al Grasser had some really good advice for the council: Members should think about whether this problem is a regular occurrence that warrants changes in city laws and perhaps infrastructure changes or if it’s a rare occurrrence that can be handled on a case by case basis.
Anybody think they got a solution?