Rogers City may lose traffic light

ROGERS CITY – Presque Isle County’s only cycling traffic light could be coming down if a review by the Michigan Department of Transportation confirms it’s not needed.

A 2007 traffic study showed the intersection of Third and Erie streets, in the heart of the city, doesn’t get the traffic to warrant a light, MDOT Traffic and Safety Engineer Steve Conradson said. The department took another look in the summer of 2012 and reached the same conclusion. Now, the department will talk with city officials and local law enforcement about the intersection and what could happen next.

The next step is a meeting on March 18 with city officials and local agencies, MDOT Alpena Transportation Services Manager Doug Wilson said. They’ll discuss possible issues with the intersection, and what to do next with the light. The meeting isn’t a public one, but there may be public hearings and notices in the future.

“This has been ID’d as a location not in need of a traffic signal,” he said. “Now we have to start talking about what some of our options are.”

Some time after the meeting, MDOT will switch the light to a flashing mode for 90 days and evaluate what happens, Conradson said. The department will watch for any traffic flow issues or uptick in accidents, although his analysis shows removing the light might improve capacity at the intersection, minimize delays and cut down on fuel consumption and emissions.

“So there’s some benefit to doing it, so it would actually kind of improve overall traffic flow,” he said.

The light would come down some time after the 90-day period if it proves to be unnecessary, Conradson said. The intersection would be changed to either a two-way stop or four-way stop.

To warrant a traffic light, Third Street, which doubles as Business Route US-23, would need at least 420 cars per hour passing through in either direction over an eight-hour period, Conradson said. Erie Street would need at least 140 cars per hour.

Otherwise, the federal government won’t provide matching funds to upgrade or build traffic signals deemed to be unnecessary, Conradson said. MDOT has the same policy.

If the city wanted to keep the light, it would have to do so at its own expense, Conradson said. That means paying $600-800 per year in electricity and maintenance costs and upgrading the signal to MDOT standards. The signals alone run $110,000 to $130,000, and that doesn’t include engineering and construction costs.

“It might be kind of expensive for a city the size of Rogers City,” he said.

Both Mayor Tom Sobeck and Rogers City Police Chief Matt Quaine said they’ll wait to get more information at the March 18 meeting before commenting on the issue.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.