Traffic signal tiff causes gridlock between Delano and Wright Co.

January 21, 2008

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Wright County’s policy regarding traffic lights in cities has resulted in gridlock between the county and the City of Delano.

County Engineer Wayne Fingalson told the board during its meeting Tuesday that Delano asked to be placed on the agenda for the meeting, but no representative from the city was present.

The big issue, Fingalson said, concerns traffic signals and who will pay for them.

“It’s all about funding. It’s a policy issue,” Fingalson said.

At the center of the controversy is a proposed traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 12 and Wright County Road 30 that is part of the $15 million Highway 12 construction project.

“Wright County has a long-standing policy that the cost of lights in cities is split between the city and the county. Delano is requesting that the city not pay anything for the signal at County Road 30 and Highway 12,” Fingalson said.

The intersection in question will be re-configured as part of the project.

Highway 16, which currently meets Highway 12 at the same intersection as County Road 30, will be moved to the west side of the Dairy Queen, and will connect with County Road 30 there, Fingalson said.

He added that the cost of the signal is about $85,000, and the city’s cost would be about $42,000, according to Fingalson.

MnDOT imposed a deadline of Jan. 16, and if there was no agreement between the county and the city by that time, MnDOT said it would remove the light from the project.

Fingalson said the county had two options. It could follow its policy, in which case there would be no signal at that intersection, or, the county could agree to pay the city’s share of the cost, and the funds would have to be found because this is not in the county budget.

Board Chair Elmer Eichelberg said the county upheld the policy when it was challenged in Hanover and Albertville.

“We have a policy that we have upheld. I represent Delano, but (if I voted to change the policy) I would be outvoted four to one, and I would deserve that. What you do for one, you do for all,” Commissioner Jack Russek said.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke addressed a concern that a light will eventually be needed at the intersection.

“I am not going to be very happy if this comes back in three or six months at a higher cost,” Sawatzke said.

“That has been communicated to the city administrator,” Fingalson said.

The board approved a motion to follow its existing policy, and directed Fingalson to notify the city that the county will not pay any increased costs as the result of Delano’s unwillingness to pay its portion of the cost. The board set the county’s maximum contribution at $42,500.

Another traffic signal that will be replaced as part of the project proved less controversial.

Fingalson said the light at Highway 12 and County Line Road is expected to have a local cost of $6,000. The county will pay its share, or $3,000, and MnDOT has indicated that it will pay the city’s $3,000 share, Fingalson said.