Coye Drive expansion plans final, city sides with traffic safety
The Stevens Point Common Council finalized its decision on its selection of a design plan for expansion of the Coye Drive and Hoover Avenue intersection and sided with the design city and contractor engineers have deemed safest and most responsible for the intersection.
The intersection has received a lot of city staff attention in recent months because one of the four property owners affected by the expansion of the intersection objected to the design.
Last month, the council voted to go with the design largely as it was, but Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza asked city staff and engineers from AECOM, the engineering firm the city hired to design the intersection, to double and triple check if there were any other solutions to complaints from the owners of the Maher Water property, located on the southeastern corner of the intersection.
The Coye Drive and Hoover Avenue intersection was selected for expansion due to the projected increase in traffic expected from the railroad overpass project directly to the north and potential growth in the Stevens Point Industrial Park.
AECOM officials said once the overpass is complete the corridor’s traffic count will grow and most likely require the Coye Drive intersection to be lighted.
AECOM engineers and city staff then worked with the four businesses adjacent to the intersection to try and find the best possible alternative with the least amount of impact to the businesses.
However, two businesses – Elmer’s Service Garage and Maher Water – will have to move their eastern Hoover Road accesses because they sit too close to the intersection. Additionally, in the Maher’s case, the city is planning to install a right-turn lane for northbound traffic onto Coye Drive, making the Maher’s east-side entrance even more unsafe.
“The plan is to put in a right turn lane in front of Maher Water Corporation in the southeast quadrant and remove our access from Hoover Road,” said Bill Maher, owner of the property. “That access is important because it allows smooth arrivals of semis docking into our north dock.”
However, Maher Water has a second entrance on the north side of the property that has been deemed plenty big enough for truck deliveries by city officials.
“Is there any concern that you have with the way that people and semis are going to enter and exit the Maher property after the access is closed?” asked Tony Patton, District 8 alderperson.
“No. We’ve run turning templates on that and though you’ll have a little bit of a learning curve on how those trucks will have to get into that business, but trucks will still be able to get in and out of there. They are still going to be able to deliver products in there and get products out of there,” said Scott Schatschneider, director of Public Works.
“Why? Why are you doing this? For a right-turn lane that’s not mandatory? We’re not on a state highway, we’re not on a federal highway, so why a right turn lane?” said Bonnie Maher, co-owner of the Maher Water property.
“That driveway on Hoover Road is being eliminated because it’s in the turn lane. That driveway can’t go in on Hoover because it will be in the turn lane,” said Schatschneider. “The driveway off of Hoover can’t happen because we need a turn lane into Coye.”
“Somebody had said, take a perspective from a truck driver, well I am a truck driver and I’ve dealt with that intersection many times,” said Jeremy Slowinski, District 6 alderperson. “And if you’re coming from the south on Hoover and attempting to turn right on Coye at 3 p.m. when Donaldson’s is letting out, you basically have to hog that whole two lanes going north to turn into there.
“So, it’s a very difficult intersection to navigate without that turn lane. The argument of not putting that turn lane in, I believe, is non-negotiable,” said Slowinski. “If we’re going to do this intersection, that turn lane needs to be there.
“It’s a difficult property, it’s a difficult intersection. When this whole discussion started, I did bring these points up … but to be talking about possibly not approving this in the last hour when this has to move forward, we need to get this going, and to questioning the right-turn lane is reckless,” he said.
The Mahers said they don’t think the intersection should be held to Wisconsin state design standards if it isn’t a state highway.
“When this intersection was designed, there was no reference made to state highway standards, these intersection improvements are based off of standard engineering principals,” said Schatschneider. “The idea that we’re designing this intersection because we think it’s a state highway is incorrect.”
Patton asked if the city could put the right-turn lane in later if it’s needed.
“Putting the right-turn lane in later isn’t an option. We’re going to be out there making improvements to the intersection and for us to come back and put a turn lane in later to see how the intersection performs without the turn lane really isn’t an option,” said Schatschneider. “We know that turn lane needs to go in, given the traffic volumes and given the traffic volumes in and out of the business park. That turn lane is necessary.”
“My lawyers asked me to ask last Monday if this action is going to turn our property in to a non-conforming property,” said Maher.
“So the question was raised, ‘with the turn lane and the new right-of-way, is the new right-of-way going to make the Maher property non-conforming?’ Our proposed new right-of-way is 31 feet from the face of the building,” said Schatschneider.
“In terms of setback requirements, they would need 30 feet to be compliant,” said Michael Ostrowski, director of Community Development.
“This seems like the city has already made up their mind about this access, Bill and I feel like our voices are not being heard, our words are falling on deaf ears,” said Bonnie.
“This has been before us for quite an amount of time, and I have to say that I know the Mahers feel they haven’t been listened to because the outcome is not what they want, but I’d like to report that they have been listened to,” said Mary McComb, District 9 alderperson. “I have been so impressed … throughout the process with the attention that has been given by our Public Works Department, AECOM, the alderpersons and the mayor to the concerns of everybody affected by this project.
“Especially with the Mahers, they have been listened to. Unfortunately, because of various constraints, the answer is not what they want. But I have been really impressed with the care and concern shown by city staff and city officials,” McComb said.
“I agree with the plan as is, I think the turn lane is needed. There’s no way to safely have a right-turn lane and an access as it’s existing currently,” said Garret Ryan, District 3. “Anybody that’s following someone in there isn’t going to know if that person is going to turn into the Maher entrance, creating a massive safety issue in my opinion.”
The Common Council voted unanimously to move forward with the design and construction is planned to begin during the next construction season, pending proper contractor’s bid approvals and approvals from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.