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Police want to make East Grand Forks intersection safer

The intersection of Bygland Road and 13th Street Southeast is a concern for the East Grand Forks Police Department when it comes to pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross there during heavy traffic. (Brandi Jewett/Grand Forks Herald.)1 / 2
EGF Police Chief Mike Hedlund. JKS2 / 2

Concerns over pedestrian and bicycle crossings at an East Grand Forks intersection during times of high traffic have police heading to the City Council to find ways to improve safety at the location.

The intersection of Bygland Road and 13th Street Southeast on the city's south end buzzes during morning and afternoon commutes as residents head to work and school. Bygland is quiet the remainder of the day, but Police Chief Mike Hedlund would like to see safety improved during those busy times.

"It's amazing how many people just blow right on through the intersection and don't pay any attention," Hedlund told the council at its Tuesday work session.

Officers have used a variety of methods to promote safety in the intersection, including enforcement of crosswalk violations, parking squad cars in an obvious location to remind drivers to slow down and escorting students across the road themselves.

"Despite our regular presence we have had several near misses at this location and our department would like to begin a discussion on how to make this intersection safer," Hedlund wrote in a request for action filed with the council.

Both South Point Elementary School and Central Middle School are located on the east side of Bygland Road, requiring children who walk to school from nearby neighborhoods to cross the road during the busiest times of the day for traffic.

Crosswalks at the intersection are marked, but a study completed last year on the road suggested several improvements could be made, ranging from constructing a roundabout to installing stoplights to putting in a crosswalk beacon that can be activated by pedestrians and cyclists.

The beacons resemble small stoplights that have an arm extended over the roadway that only lights up when a button is pressed by pedestrians.

"That would be a very good option because you're not actually stopping traffic like a traffic signal at that intersection," City Planner Nancy Ellis said.

The pedestrian-activated signal system would cost about $280,000 to install two beacons but their use would require to the city to move crosswalks farther away from the intersection to limit the number of directions pedestrians need to watch for traffic.

Other options floated at the meeting included creating a volunteer crossing guard program.

It's likely some city efforts to improve safety at the intersection could qualify for federal grant funding that would cover a majority of the costs. The council and city staff will continue to discuss what can be done at the intersection and if pursuing grants is an option.

"Something needs to be done, and it's all in the name of safety," Mayor Lynn Stauss said.