City moves 4th Street NW option forward

Published 7:11 pm Friday, January 21, 2022

On Tuesday, Austin City Council members got a more extensive look at possible fixes to a question of how to better streamline traffic on Fourth Street NW.

During Tuesday’s work session, City Engineer Steven Lang laid out seven options that could possibly answer the concern of left hand merging onto the street safely. The discussion comes ahead of further business development along Fourth Street NW as well as the upcoming bridge replacement slated to take place in 2023 through the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The options ranged from adding extra traffic lights, adding two more lanes of travel as well as blocking access from certain avenues to Fourth Street NW and creating cut-du-sacs.

However, council members focused on an option that would eliminate parking on the south side of 13th Avenue NW, next to Subway, and add a right-hand turn lane.

“We believe eliminating parking on the south side of 13th Avenue is the most cost effective,” Lang told commissioners.

It also leans toward being the easiest to accomplish and is less likely to cause problems elsewhere, something Lang pointed out regarding an option that included tweaking traffic lights.

“If we were to try and tweak or modify the green or red durations, it may cause unintended consequences,” Lang said. “We would be hesitant.”

Council members originally began looking at how to improve traffic on the major arterial through Austin after they agreed to rezone property along the street from housing to business to accommodate a possible coffee shop as well as possible future developments.

Citizens immediately brought up concerns of safety and pushed the council to look at the subject more closely.

The council voted unanimously to move the subject forward to a later meeting.

However, that wasn’t the only subject hovering over Fourth Street NW, as Lang laid out options to address a stretch of 250 feet leading up to MnDot’s bridge replacement from the south.

Lang laid out three options that included working with MnDOT’s contractor to take care of the stretch, adopt a city developed plan or work with a separate entity to design plans.

The council voted to move forward with the first option, and while it is the more expensive of the options, it is the most streamlined option.

“All of the traffic control is coordinated and it has the least impact,” Lang said.

The cost of the project is estimated at $75,000.

In other news:

• The council agreed to a 7% increase in assessment rates for 2022 to better reach the goal of 40% of street repairs met through assessments.