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Downtown Rochester's Most Talked-About Intersection Will Remain Four-Way

Is the intersection of University and Water streets an accident waiting to happen — or a safer spot for pedestrians to cross?

The four-way stop signs at University and Water streets in downtown Rochester will stay — at least for the next 12 months.

Rochester City Council approved a recommendation by Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm and City Manager Jaymes Vettraino to keep the signs in place for the next year, when they revisit, again, whether they are needed. Stop signs on University were installed at the start of last year's Main Street Makeover to help control detour traffic downtown.

The city consulted the Traffic Improvement Association to review that intersection as well as intersections on Pine and Diversion streets where temporary stop signs were installed. Though the association concluded the traffic volume and traffic unbalance in that area did not warrant a four-way stop, city leaders mostly agreed that the four-way stop was an important part of promoting the city as pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

"We refer to ourselves as a walking community," said councilmember Ben Giovanelli. "Seems like we should make an over-abundant effort in that direction."

Temporary stop signs

The four-way stop on University and Water was one of several temporary traffic control orders in place during last year's Makeover, which replaced Main Street through downtown.

These other stop signs, also installed temporarily last year, also will stay: 

  • Pine and Third streets.
  • Pine and Fourth streets.
  • Diversion and South streets.
  • Diversion and First streets.

The city has discretion over where to place stop signs, and these four were "deemed generally successful," Vettraino said.

University and Water

In December, city leaders asked for feedback about the four-way stop at University and Water. The intersection is located about halfway between Main Street and the Royal Park Hotel.

Vettraino cited a Rochester Patch story in December, where commenters were split on whether the sign was helpful in that location.

On Monday night, proponents of the stop signs said they make for a better pedestrian crossing; opponents said they make for an accident waiting to happen.

"What there's not going to be with those stop signs are natural breaks in the traffic," said David Zemens, who walks his dog across that road twice a day, every day. "I look at the past crash statistics and there aren't any — in 2011 there was one accident at that intersection.

"If we leave that stop sign there I guarantee by next year we'll have an accident there."

Councilmember Kim Russell expressed concerns about traffic backups on Water Street and also on University, where she recently noticed a backup all the way to the intersection of Main Street.

Schettenhelm said he hasn't noticed backups and said that intersection will be on his department's radar going forward.

He said when the city was nearing the end of the Main Street Makeover, he asked his officers about the stop signs. "Hands down, this was the intersection officers felt needed to stay."

Councilmember Steve Sage suggested the debate about the intersection should lead to a discussion about a more permanent signal — like a blinking light — to help with pedestrian and bike safety.

Vettraino said grant money would be needed to pay for enhanced signals at crossings.

Beverly February 28, 2013 at 11:49 AM
I pass through the water and university ntersection 3-4 Times a week and have never witnessed a pedestrian or bicyclist crossing....just saying :)
Christine Hage February 28, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Really dislike the 4 -way stop at Water and University. Backs traffic up and is generally annoying.
Patricia February 28, 2013 at 12:58 PM
The one good thing it does do is slow traffic up and that is helpful with the turn offs to the Post Office and library using Old Town. However-I see persons looking confused when they do stop at Water and University and wondering if the other car is going to stop-it seems there are a lot of hesitant drivers at that particular stop sign(s) and I don't know why-I think the idea of traffic calming is a good idea throughout our city-we have a drivers who still disregard the stop signs by us and those that travel too fast-I don't have an answer, but if it slows traffic to the posted speed limit, that is good. The entire area on University from the east side of Main right up to the crosswalk i(trail) is difficult to cross anywhere to begin with. I avoid it when walking.
Barbara Krueger February 28, 2013 at 01:56 PM
I agree with all three of the above comments. It really is unnecessary. I grew up in Detroit (until the age of 14) and we thought nothing of crossing main streets like Gratiot Ave.in the middle of the busy street. You just patiently wait until you get can cross the street. I almost missed the stop sign the other day because it seems to be at such an unlikely location. Hope Rochester re-thinks this in a year.........please.
Rebecca February 28, 2013 at 02:53 PM
I think it's a great place for a 4 way stop. It is easier and much safer place to cross now for us walkers. There is always so much traffic around the library and Post Office it was always a little scary to cross around that area of University.
Ben Giovanelli, CPA February 28, 2013 at 03:16 PM
I could have gone either way but what swayed my vote was the answer the Cheif gave when I asked his opinion. "Hands down, this was the intersection officers felt needed to stay." I value the opinion of our officers highly. We'll look at it in a year and see how it goes.
Carol February 28, 2013 at 03:22 PM
The traffic in the Water St/University area is much higher since the Main Street Makeover detours took place. Seems lots of folks decided this is a good way to avoid Main Street...and now traffic backs up in all directions.
Janice Rex-Weaver February 28, 2013 at 04:16 PM
I appreciate the stop signs. My girls and I walk downtown alot. I also think the signs slow down the traffic coming down the hill from the Royal Park past the library. Even though there is a pedestrian walkway there, cars go over the speed limit there heading down the hill.
Patricia Jones February 28, 2013 at 04:21 PM
I like the 4 way stop at this location, it is safer for walkers, and traffic gets heavy at certain times during the day. I use that area on my way to the post office.
Pat Bartuski February 28, 2013 at 06:11 PM
I like the 4-way stop at University and Water, but it is totally unnecessary at Diversion and South and Diversion and Fourth. There isn't that much traffic, and it totally disrupts the flow of traffic.
Frank D. February 28, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Why don't they fix the Mainstreet traffic lights synchronization first...People are sick and tired of being held up in front of each traffic light.. This will allow a better flow and less stop and go pollution and waste of gas...now people are still try to use the backroads...
George Taylor February 28, 2013 at 07:23 PM
I live east of Main street in the sub-division at the top of the hill. I travel a lot through the 4 way stop at University and Water streets. I observe many unnecessary stops. At 11PM everyone traveling east or west has to stop when no cars are traveling north and south on Water St. I have seen up to 5 east bound cars stopping when no other cars were crossing north or south. The federal gov't instituted the ability to turn right on red (where allowed) as a measure to save gasoline. A lot of it is being wasted for unnecessary stops on University. The city said they will look at this in a year. How will they determine if the stop signs should stay or not? What is their criteria. Is someone going to be posted 24/7 and take notes?
Ron Harman February 28, 2013 at 07:34 PM
​In my opinion the recent (Due to the Main Street makeover) three way stop signs at Diversion and South Street are unnecessary. The former single stop sign where Diversion meets South St. has been more than adequate for the last 50+ years. I have traveled this particular intersection thousands of times since 1963 and have yet to see any accidents. (Our Family Business is located on South St.) Not to say there have not been any accidents but the highest flow of traffic uses South Street as a East/West thruway and Diversion dead ending at South St. has its former limited traffic now that Main Street has reopened.
Ron Harman February 28, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Frank D. is right on the mark!. Unfortunately, I believe that the Main Street Traffic Signals are set by the Michigan State Highway Dept. So ... We "Locals" have little say in this matter. It is abit more than just frustrating when you sit at any one of the three primary Main St. intersections .... get the green light at exactly the same time that the next light turns red. All we can do with this on going matter is say WHY? :-)
Ron Harman February 28, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Excellent questions George. Stopping a very seldom used North South Water Street is fine as it has always been. But .... also stopping the heavily used East West University St. seems to be unnecessary. I do agree that if our Police Department says it is beneficial then so be it. Waiting a full year for a Study to be made? How about three months? ... That is IMHO.
Frank D. March 01, 2013 at 01:56 AM
@Ron Harman.. I understand that Mainstreet falls under the authority of MDOT. On the other hand, I am convinced that Rochester City has a big "word" and "input" in whatever MDOT decides..If Rochester WANTS this changed, it will be changed..That is what real "leadership" can and will do...
PMA March 01, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Not true. I live on Bolinger off of Diversion and travel that route daily. Before the construction the traffic always would back up off Rochester Rd. and I could not get out of my sub onto Diversion to go downtown. The flow is MUCH better and faster with that stop and the one at First St.
Bert Smith March 01, 2013 at 03:21 PM
I would like the sign to come down it impedes the natural flow of traffic. In addition it makes turning left onto East Street problematic.
Mackey Chandler March 02, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Everybody who finds joy in the traffic moving slower kind of misses the point of driving a car. We can put a stop sign at every corner and a 15 mph national speed limit and Golly Gee - traffic deaths will plummet and kids and dogs will be safe. Of course you won't be able to get anywhere, but it's for the children so it's all good.
James Kelly March 02, 2013 at 10:11 PM
I think the stop signs are great. I frequently WALK to the post office & library. Crossing University on foot used to be a good way to get one's pulse up. I believe impedintg the flow of traffic is the purpose, no? If you are in a hurry, why oh why are you driving in Rochester? One of the fine things about living downtown is that one may walk anywhere.

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