Andover neighborhood keeps its four-way stop signs

The Andover City Council agreed with a neighborhood that did not want four-way stop signs removed at an intersection.

The Andover City Council on a 4-0 vote, with one councilmember absent, ruled that it was in the best interest of the Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace neighborhood to keep all four stop signs at the intersection of 147th Avenue and Guarani Street. Photo by Eric Hagen

The Andover City Council on a 4-0 vote, with one councilmember absent, ruled that it was in the best interest of the Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace neighborhood to keep all four stop signs at the intersection of 147th Avenue and Guarani Street. Photo by Eric Hagen

The council July 17 considered whether stop signs on east-west 147th Avenue should be removed so that only the north-south Guarani Street would have stop signs.

City Engineer and Public Works Director David Berkowitz said the 147th Avenue stop signs at this residential neighborhood intersection did not meet the thresholds described in a Minnesota traffic signs policy manual. The residents and council felt this was a unique intersection that needed all four stop signs.

The council voted 4-0 to keep all four stop signs. Councilmember Julie Trude was absent from the July 17 meeting.

Councilmember Sheri Bukkila drove through the neighborhood in broad daylight and late one evening after a thunderstorm to get a feel for the area. She did not have any issues when she was traveling west or north, but said that it was harder to see the sign when she was going east at night because there are no street lights. When she was driving south on Guarani Street, trees made it difficult to see the sign.

“That stop sign has been there for years without a problem,” Councilmember Mike Knight said. “I can see no reason why we wouldn’t leave it.”

The intersection of 147th Avenue and Guarani Street has been a four-way stop for almost 20 years. The reason the city was even looking at this intersection is because it was reconstructing the streets in the Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace neighborhood this year.

Berkowitz said whenever the city reconstructs roads, it evaluates signage in the area. This could include the addition or subtraction of signs.

Guarani Street sees much fewer vehicles than 147th Avenue, according to the three-day traffic count the city did in March. The traffic counters were installed at 9:20 a.m. March 19 and removed at 9:30 a.m. March 22.

According to the statistics, Guarani Street on the north and south ends of the intersection only averaged between 140 and 150 vehicles per day over this three-day stretch. As far as 147th Avenue, the west side of the intersection averaged 651 vehicles per day and the east side averaged 848 vehicles per day.

The Minnesota Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices says that “multi-way stop control is used where the volume of traffic on the intersecting roads is approximately equal.” The manual does provide some flexibility if there happens to be an eight-hour stretch when there are a rush of vehicles or if five or more crashes were reported during a full year, but neither of these standards were met by this Andover intersection.

The intersection of 147th Avenue and Guarani Street is not too far east of Seventh Avenue. Anoka High School is nearby and a neighborhood east of Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace may use 147th Avenue to quickly get to Seventh Avenue instead of backtracking to Round Lake Boulevard and then Bunker Lake Boulevard.

Speeding does not appear to be a problem on the stretch of 147th Avenue between Seventh Avenue and Guarani Street, according to a speed study by the city that occurred between April 17 and 27. The speed limit is 35 mph and 70.7 percent drove that speed or lower. About one in four people (23.2 percent) drove up to five miles per hour faster than the speed limit. Only 6.1 percent drove 40 mph or faster.

Residents believe that allowing 147th Avenue traffic to drive through without having to stop would make the area less safe. Knight heard from some residents that a lot of high school students drive on 147th Avenue.

“I disagree that a stop sign on 147th east/west will not help with speed control,” wrote Pamela Odash, who was from one of three households to write e-mails to the city asking the four stop signs remain. “Having previously lived at three different homes that were on long streets without signs and there was always an issue of speeding.”

Councilmember Tony Howard said the temporary closure of Bunker Lake Boulevard between Seventh and 38th avenues next year for the reconstruction project would also impact traffic patterns on 147th Avenue.

On the other hand, Berkowitz provided a two-page paper titled “Intersection Safety: Myth Versus Reality” that was completed by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

“There is no evidence to indicate that stop signs decrease the overall speed of traffic,” the paper stated. “Impatient drivers view the additional delay caused by unwarranted stop signs as “lost time” to be made up by driving at higher speeds between stop signs.”

City Attorney Scott Baumgartner said Berkowitz is correct that the Minnesota traffic signs policy manual standards for having four-way stop signs are not met by this intersection, but Baumgartner added that one section of the policy manual states that there is no legal requirement to not have these signs installed. Therefore, the council has flexibility to analyze each situation, he said.

“I don’t believe you could ever draft any manual that would certainly encompass every single situation,” Baumgartner said.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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