091317-nws-works

The city is making changes to the intersection of Fifth and Main streets to make it safer.

Chris Huber, Journal staff

Changes are coming to a busy intersection in downtown Rapid City, but the project won't involve any major construction.

During a Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, city traffic engineer Steve Frooman spoke about a plan to make the intersection of Fifth and Main streets safer and improve traffic flow.

Under the plan, the northbound approach on Fifth Street at Main Street would be converted into two left-turn lanes with two through lanes, instead of the current single turn lane, shared through/left-turn lane, and single through lane.

In order to make room for the extra through lane, nine parking spaces along Fifth Street north of St. Joseph Street up to the railroad tracks at Nikko Street will be eliminated.

"Historically there has been a problem with people in the lane that turn right or go straight," Frooman said. "People behind them are thinking they are going to go straight and slamming on their brakes and almost hitting them or swerving at the last moment. "

No major construction will be needed to make the safety fix, and most of the work will involve painting new street lines and putting up new signage. 

Frooman said the project will cost less than $10,000, and the money will come from the 2017 budget. He said he hopes to have the project completed by early October at the latest.

Alderman Jason Salamun raised concerns about pedestrian traffic crossing Fifth Street at a time when the city is trying to draw people to areas east of Fifth Street as part of the downtown master plan. But Frooman said changes won't make the intersection less safe for pedestrians.

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"We aren't going to be removing the crosswalk, we aren't changing the pedestrian walk time or anything like that," Frooman said.

"It is a safe intersection to cross as long as you do so in the crosswalk," added Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris.

Alderman Ritchie Nordstrom said he was concerned about the business owners along Fifth Street who would lose parking spaces. Frooman said he has not talked to those businesses about the plan.

"As far as I can tell there are never more than five or six cars using those spaces at once," Frooman said.

Because the item was for public information only, the proposed changes don't require public works or city council approval.

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Chris Huber is the managing editor at the Rapid City Journal.