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.