A potential crosswalk at Holly and 3rd Avenue sparked a long conversation at Sidney City Council at the July 15 meeting, with Shane Mintz, Glendive district administrator for Montana Department of Transportation (MTDOT), and citizen Diane Sorenson presenting arguments against and for, respectively.
“We can’t just put them up everywhere or anywhere,” Mintz said, who has jurisdiction over the crosswalk because it’s over a highway. “They lose their emphasis. “Obviously the best place to cross pedestrians on a busier street is at a signalized intersection.”
The intersection in question doesn’t have a traffic signal and the issue brought to council included the ability of handicap pedestrians to cross Holly. City council is working on adding more sidewalks on Holly and is doing so as the budget allows. Eventually, the goal is to have solid sidewalks from east to west. The state is responsible for some of those sidewalks. An ADA compliant crosswalk exists on Central Avenue and Holly Street, a few blocks down from the intersection in question.
Diane Sorenson attended the meeting to advocate for her grandson, who is in a wheelchair.
“What people don’t seem to realize is that for a handicap person in this town, we walk two block to your one block,” Sorenson said. She explained how difficult it can be to navigate throughout Sidney, using alleys and frequently backtracking just to have an accessible route.
“He’s entitled to be out just like any other little kid,” she said. “I think there needs to be crossing at 3rd and Holly. I’ve talked to a lot of walkers and people that bicycle, women with strollers, that is where people are crossing.”
Many locals use that back street and intersection to get out to Fox Run, Sorenson told council.
“I think there should be a way to make it so that there’s a crosswalk painted on that crosswalk there,” she said. “The state has met all the requirements — they put in the ramps, they’re all painted with yellow on either side of them. And now you’re telling us we can’t use them.”
Sorenson said eventually, someone is going to get hit trying to cross the street and using the stoplight is too far out of the way.
Mintz again addressed the issue of crosswalks losing their emphasis if implemented too often. He agreed people want to take the shortest route and won’t always utilize safer routes if they are a bit farther, but wanted to focus on encouraging people to do so.
“We don’t make rules up just to make rules up,” Mintz said. “Physically, painting a crosswalk there is nothing to us. We would gladly do it if it was as simple as that… As close to this is to Central, our traffic engineering folks really think the safest thing is to try to get them to go to Central where the traffic is being stopped. Studies show there is limited success with straight striping.”
Council member Kysa Rasmussen said it takes a long time to cross that intersection and while she understands both sides, no one is asking for much.
“I don’t think that there’s a lot being asked,” Rasmussen said. “We aren’t asking for every other block. We are asking for one block, which is an intersection that is used frequently.”
Jason Schrader, a citizen in attendance of the meetings, told Mintz there was no reason to not paint the crosswalk and he didn’t know why it was an issue.
“Council has expressed they want it done, so have citizens. Why don’t you do it?” Schrader asked. “This is what the people want. This is your job… All I’m hearing from you is arguments. We are the tax payers. We are the income makers. We want you to do this study, we want it painted.”
Mintz said if Schrader didn’t understand why they couldn’t, then he didn’t do a good job explaining it.
“You make it sound like it’s really simple and we don’t give a rip about these peoples’ safety,” Mintz said. “Our concern is there are safety implications — long term — to putting something in there that is less than ideal for that type of situation.”
No action was taken by council at the meeting, due to jurisdictional restraints. Mintz said city council could put something in writing that he can take to MTDOT and see what could be done.