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City panel opts to study downtown Baraboo intersection

February 7, 2019 GMT

Responding to citizens’ safety concerns, the city will pay nearly $2,000 to study making a downtown Baraboo intersection a four-way stop.

On Monday the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee voted 3-0 to hire MSA Professional Services of Baraboo to conduct a traffic count and analyze safety at the intersection of Fifth and Oak streets. It currently has stop signs only for north- and southbound traffic on Oak.

More than 200 people signed a petition asking for a four-way stop, claiming the bustling Coffee Bean Connection, Nanny Park and downtown traffic combine to make the spot dangerous for walkers, bicyclists and motorists. In response the committee solicited bids for a traffic study.

“I think we owe it to the city to at least look at that,” said council member Tom Kolb.

MSA’s bid of $1,870 came in well under the only competing bid of $4,250 from KL Engineering of Fitchburg. MSA will use a camera to count traffic over 12-hour periods.

“It doesn’t guarantee an outcome one way or another,” said Baraboo City Engineer Tom Pinion.

He said he doubts the intersection’s traffic volume and crash rate will meet federal standards for a four-way stop. Baraboo police say the intersection has seen five crashes in the past four years, on par with similar intersections elsewhere in the city.

Council member Phil Wedekind said the safety of children playing at Nanny Park is important enough to warrant a study. “That kind of bothers me,” he said.

While few crashes and no pedestrian collisions have been reported, citizens who led the petition drive said Fifth and Oak is the site of frequent near misses. When Jimmy Kimball, whose barber shop lies just up the street, posted his concerns about the intersection on social media, several residents commented that they had witnessed or been part of accidents and near-accidents.

Several petition signers wrote that they’ve witnessed close calls. Others wrote that they’d been knocked off their bikes or had their cars totaled.

Some drivers blow through the stop signs, while others — mistakenly thinking there are stop signs on Fifth — slow down and risk getting rear-ended.

Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf has suggested affixing flashing lights or spinners to the stop signs on Oak to draw drivers’ attention.