Plan commission: traffic decreases in downtown Colfax

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — Daily traffic in downtown Colfax has decreased from 4,500 cars per day in 2002 down to 3,800 cars per day in 2010.

The Colfax Plan Commission discussed the transportation element of the village’s Smart Growth Comprehensive Plan at the September 10 meeting with Patrick Beilfuss, a planner with Cedar Corporation.

According to a map Beilfuss supplied to the plan commission, at the same time traffic was decreasing in downtown Colfax, it was increasing on other streets.

During that same time period, daily traffic on county Highway M on the east side of town increased from 760 in 2002 to 860 in 2010.

Traffic along University Avenue increased as well, from 3,400 in 2002 to 4,100 in 2010.

Traffic on state Highway 170 also increased, from 1,800 in 2002 to 2,000 in 2010.

Since traffic decreased in downtown Colfax on Main Street but increased on other roads, Beilfuss speculated that drivers going through Colfax were taking different routes.

In 2011, according to information that will be included in the comprehensive plan update, of the 493 people who reported commuting to work, 378 of them drove alone in a truck, car or a van; 47 of them carpooled to work; 44 of them walked to work; and 24 of them worked at home.

Out of those who reported having jobs, 278 of them worked in Dunn County, and 201 worked outside of Dunn County.

Beilfuss was hired by the Colfax Village Board to help the plan commission update the village’s comprehensive plan.

State law requires comprehensive plans to be updated once every ten years.

Recommendations

Many municipalities overbuild their roads, Beilfuss told the plan commission members.

In certain areas, a majority of the residents park in their driveways or in a garage, and wider streets are not necessary for parking, he said.

Narrower streets tend to slow down traffic and make the neighborhoods safer, Beilfuss noted.

Beilfuss urged plan commission members to be thinking about where sidewalks are needed in Colfax and where walking or bike trails might be located.

One problem that emerged in the Power of 10 report is the difficulty pedestrians experience crossing Main Street.

“Traffic calming” techniques to slow down vehicles include curb extensions, crossing islands, speed bumps or raised pedestrian crossings, landscaping and bike lanes, Beilfuss said.

Recommendations that will most likely be included in the comprehensive plan update include separating local and through traffic where feasible; encouraging improvements on major transportation routes; removing and preventing blighting influences along the transportation routes; reducing the amount of pavement on new streets; adopting a building code and enforcing it along the two state highways and the rail corridor; providing bicycle and pedestrian corridors and paths.

Additional recommendations include participating in the county’s trail program; working with Canadian National Railroad to develop railroad sidings to provide rail service to future industrial areas; taking advantage of the museum and rail tradition by having non-profit groups sponsor excursion trains such as the Autumn Leaf Special or the Santa Claus Train.

The Colfax Plan Commission meets next on October 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the village hall.