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Alley traffic a problem in some parts of Colfax

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — How many vehicles per day would you expect to drive down an alley in Colfax? Five? Ten?

Colfax resident Jason Johnson spoke to the Colfax Village Board at the September 27 meeting during the public comments section of the agenda about his concern regarding alley traffic.

At times, Johnson said, the alley past his house has had as many as 35 vehicles per day.

And how does Johnson know the number of vehicles driving down the alley?

He has a motion detector security system to protect his property, seeing as someone has used the alley to steal items out of his yard.

On a recent Sunday, 17 vehicles drove down the alley — and six of them were after midnight, Johnson said.

Colfax Police Chief William Anderson asked if the vehicle traffic tended to be the same car or cars.

Increased traffic of different makes and models of vehicles not normally seen in an area can indicate drug trafficking activity.

Johnson said he thought people were using the alley as a shortcut to avoid stop signs.

The village owns the alleyways, and they are a public right-of-way, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.

According to the village’s ordinances, an alley is a public right-of-way and a secondary means of vehicle access to property, such as a garage, and provides access for utility maintenance and access for the fire department and the police department, Johnson said.

The problem is that people also are using the alleys for public transit to drive through and avoid stop signs, he said.

The alleys have no form of traffic control, no stop signs or yield signs, and they have limited sight distance, Johnson said, noting that he fears for the safety of children playing in alleys.

Scott Gunnufson, village president, said he believed the speed limit is ten miles per hour in the alleys.

“We should check the ordinances for a speed limit. The police chief can only enforce what is in the ordinance,” Niggemann said.

By state statute, an alley is a road and all traffic laws apply, Police Chief Anderson said.

Casey Rihn, village trustee, lives on Balsam Street and said he does not see much traffic through the alley behind his house.

Johnson said some alleys appear to have more traffic than others but that he was concerned about all of the alleys in Colfax.

Gunnufson suggested putting alleys on the agenda for a public safety committee meeting.