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Pilot project aims to curb speeding in Superior neighborhoods

The effort aims to slow traffic in the neighborhood around the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Government Center in Superior.
Government Center Boardroom, Superior.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A small group of city council leaders met with the city’s police chief and public works director to develop a more comprehensive approach to address speeding in Superior neighborhoods.

The result is a pilot project for the neighborhood adjacent to the University of Wisconsin-Superior to streamline the response to issues when they arise.

Councilors amended the budget to fund child care and set money aside for other ideas.

“We met a few times, and we came up with different ideas,” council Vice President Jenny Van Sickle said during a presentation to the public works committee on Thursday, Feb. 3.

She said ideas include placing stop signs, deploying the police department’s speed trailer, painting pavement and aligning the response from police and public works to speeding issues.

The university neighborhood was where the conversation first started, said Todd Janigo, public works director. Last summer, the council approved placing additional stop signs along North 16th Street at Baxter and Cumming avenues to force traffic to slow down in a neighborhood that had ongoing issues with speeding.

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“There’s been a history in Superior of the avenues having the right of way,” Janigo said. “So if you’re going north, south on the avenues, you have the right of way. That’s false. Where that came from I don’t know, but there’s a belief that that’s the right of way.”

He said currently, there’s no formal process for determining where stop signs should be placed. The council simply chooses.

“There’s some public works things we can do — fog lines, cross walks, the distance from the corners people are parking, signage,” Janigo said. “And there’s the green response — road narrowing, decorative plantings, trees. Those take time. You can’t go out there in a week and make that happen, but when you reconstruct them, you can look at those types of things.”

Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander said one of the things his department is doing to respond to speeding complaints is utilizing software to direct officers to troubled areas.

Traffic Lt. Thor Trone keeps a running list that officers can see on their phones, Alexander said. Officers are asked to spend time in those areas and are able to track the response. Since August, when the software was deployed, he said officers have written 68 tickets at locations that received complaints with special enforcement.

“Traffic complaints usually come to me in one form or the other,” Trone said.

And in a few weeks, the public will be able to make complaints online. The department is in the testing phase right now, Trone said, and will let the public know when the system is available.

“This really helps us track the progress,” Van Sickle said.

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Janigo said he developed a draft plan for stop signs for the neighborhood between Hammond and Catlin avenues, and Belknap and North 21st streets, which includes where signs are currently placed. He said it could include up to 45 signs in the area.

“There’s lots of post-pounding if we were to go that route,” he said.

Councilor Ruth Ludwig, who lives in the neighborhood, said she’s been out talking to neighbors about the pilot project.

“I don’t think I’ve heard one negative response,” Ludwig said. “It’s all been positive. ‘Yes, I want the stop signs.’”

Lamborn Avenue would remain classified as a through street and would have fewer stop signs to let people travel further to discourage cutting through neighborhoods, Janigo said.

Trone said he would like to see the committee bisect the area and try it in a smaller portion of the neighborhood to avoid putting in things that will be taken away if it’s determined not to be a good idea.

Van Sickle said the goal is to create a consistent plan, so people know what to expect.

“I was surprised it was a reactive request rather than a process,” said council President Tylor Elm, who proposed the stop signs at North 16th Street last summer.

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He said the pilot project makes sense because it allows the city to gather more data before developing plans for other areas of the city.

The committee took no action on the plan but will revisit it when the weather starts to warm up.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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