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City Council Hears Complaints on Truck Traffic

By Staff | Jul 16, 2015

Complaints about truck traffic on the two major highways that intersect Emmetsburg’s central business district were brought to Emmetsburg City Council at their Monday meeting.

Emmetsburg resident Margay Grose informed the council of a letter to the editor she had written to the newspaper.

“From the number of responses and comments that I’ve received back, apparently I’m not the only one that feels it’s a real disruption and disadvantage to have so much going so fast through town,” she told the council.

She questioned if a traffic study had been done, giving the number of trucks that go through town.

“I’m not talking about trucks that have business in Emmetsburg or belong to an organization in Emmetsburg, just the ones that are traveling through,” she said. “The request would be that the council put this topic somewhere on their agenda to talk about maybe either additional signage that would remind people of the speed limit or announce that we, in fact, enforce the speed limit.”

Grose said she has driven through town at the speed limit, 25 mph, and been passed. She also said she tried to have conversations while on the sidewalk and cannot because of the truck traffic noise.

Councilman Brian Campbell addressed Grose’s concerns, noting that Em- metsburg is trying to promote tourism and painting the picture of a friendly community.

“We don’t want to become known as a speed trap,” he said. “I think we’re very fortunate to have businesses that generate traffic through town. I can think of a lot of communities that would give anything to have some of the businesses that we have on the south side of town. We consider ourselves fortunate.”

During the course of discussion, Grose added, “I’m not trying to discourage traffic. I’m with you 100% in terms of getting people to come here, but that’s not the kind of traffic that comes and stops and shops.”

She then questioned why truck drivers do not use the bypasses. Campbell suggested that truckers do not want to drive an extra two or three miles.

“Why did we just pave all that bypass on the east side of town, where they took part of our farm and said ‘we need to widen this road? This has to be a bypass’,” she asked. “What drove that decision?”

Campbell stated that was a county decision.

Grose was also concerned that truck drivers do not respect pedestrian crossing signs.

When she asked again about a traffic study, Councilman Bill Burdick said a study is currently being conducted. He also advised going to the State of Iowa website and pull up Emmetsburg, click on roads and view the latest traffic count.

City Administrator John Bird noted there are rubber hoses across streets that count vehicles and there are also human counters. This count will get a feel for the types of vehicles and the turning patterns.

Bird later addressed Grose’s concerns about speed. Concerned about speed years ago, the city had requested the DOT do a speed study on the highways. The professional recommendation from the DOT was to increase speeds on the highways, right up to the central business district.

“The council then, more or less, said no thank you,” Bird noted. “Really, our only option is to give more tickets. Traffic engineers, believe it or not, set speed limits based on what the traffic is doing. They want to get vehicles through.”

In his report to the council, Police Chief Eric Hanson also addressed the issue.

“I want to assure the council, myself and the other five officers do the best job we can any given time of the day,” Hanson said. “We’ve never let speeding tickets go. We’re not a department that’s going to stop somebody for one, two or three over the limit We write what tickets need to be written. We address complaints when they’re received, especially requests to go to certain areas.”

Hanson said they are monitoring 25th Street and First Street where construction is taking place at Palo Alto County Health System.

“We try to do everything we can. We try to give as much attention as we can to the downtown,” he said, noting that pedestrian crossing signs are placed at 10th, 11th and 12th intersections.

Grose questioned if pedestrian crossing signs could be placed in the center of the street. Hanson responded, no, the city does not have the authority. Highway 18 is a U.S. Federal Highway and Highway 4 is a State Highway.

“Emmetsburg is not a normal location,” the Police Chief pointed out. “We have two four-lane highways that intersect and make up our downtown.”