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Blueberry / Kelsey intersection set for changes

MONROE — Traffic jams at Blueberry Lane and Kelsey Street might become a thing of the past this fall.
The city is adding a left turn lane on northbound Kelsey approaching Blueberry and a receiving lane for drivers from Blueberry to hop onto Kelsey and merge in. The improvements also lengthen Kelsey’s northbound left turn lane at U.S. 2.
Work is projected to start the week of Aug. 19 and is scheduled to take 11 weeks to complete — basically the week before Halloween if it starts in mid-August.
But with it come new curbs that will block left turns in and out of both Denny’s and Rite Aid.
The new left turn lane toward Blueberry will fit three or four cars. A flat triangle curb will go in the middle of the intersection to guide traffic turning at the Blueberry/Kelsey intersection. The curb is flat so State Roofing’s bigger trucks could drive over while making wide turns at the intersection.
“Trust me, we coordinated with State Roofing on this,” deputy city engineer Scott Peterson said at a project open house last month.
A rounded curb along Kelsey to fit the turn lane is to meet a railroad request, said the project’s designer.
The curbs are a traffic control measure required to fit with the city’s eventual goal to make Monroe a “quiet zone,” where trains would no longer sound their horns to announce their presence at the city’s five rail crossings. The curb on Kelsey is to prevent drivers from driving around railroad crossing arms.
Taking away access is going to hurt business at Denny’s, a woman at the open house commented.
The coming curbs on Kelsey will mean the only ways to get to Denny’s would be by turning into the back end of its parking lot from U.S. 2 — the closest way onto U.S. 2 is from the 522 offramps — or by going further east to Lewis Street and then use U.S. 2 to turn left at Kelsey and then turn into the restaurant’s main entrance.
Would some drivers temporarily drive in opposing traffic before the curb starts be able to turn left into Denny’s from Kelsey Street? A city engineer candidly said that’s illegal but foreseeable.
There will be detours during construction. The first phase is adds curbs and will detour southbound Kelsey traffic.
The second phase requires detouring all Kelsey Street traffic to build the center flat curb in the intersection. Traffic would need to be diverted because there’s not enough space available to safely let cars pass next to the construction zone, city senior engineer Jim Gardner said.
The detour takes drivers onto Blueberry to turn at King Street and then turn again at Columbia Street to get back to Kelsey.
During Monroe’s rare rush hour, cars back up at the intersection when cars try turning into Blueberry. A sign prohibiting left turns from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays is occasionally abided by. Cars on Blueberry meanwhile are often stuck waiting for a gap to turn left onto Kelsey.
The intersection’s level-of-service rating is, informally, considered poor by traffic engineering standards, city public works director Brad Feilberg said. A train at the crossing compounds congestion.
Constructing the new curbs and repainting this section of road is estimated to cost $420,000, from figures presented in June.
A dozen or so people attended the June 26 project open house. Overall,  the comments were positive about alleviating the traffic backup.

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