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City Commission hears accident safety concerns

When a car went through Gary Zent’s garage in 2011, he thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that such a serious accident would happen to him — until it happened to his next-door neighbor last month.

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Zent petitioned the Dickinson City Commission at its regular meeting at City Hall on Monday for a barrier or other safety apparatus to be placed between the backyards that face State Avenue South and the much-traveled roadway itself.

“We’re just really feeling concerned about the safety of us living there and trying to have some kind of protection installed on that berm to keep this from happening,” Zent said.

The Oct. 20 accident involved a car rolling into Zent’s neighbor’s yard from the street and crashing into an enclosed deck in the backyard.

A dirt berm helps keep traffic on the road, Zent said, but he has witnessed several near-misses throughout the years.

“Some of the incidents they don’t even see because these vehicles come up, and they don’t quite come over the berm,” Zent said of the Dickinson Police Department. “It’s all because of that curve on State Avenue and, typically, excessive speed. Law enforcement does a great job patrolling that street, but they can’t be there 24-7 either.”

The road serves as a truck bypass from south Dickinson to west Dickinson when connected to Eighth Street Southwest, Commissioner Shirley Dukart said.

In addition to the safety issue, the neighborhood has been experiencing disruption from traffic noise on State Avenue, Zent said.

After meeting with Zent about the issue, Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger prepared a presentation outlining some of the accidents and incidents in the area between Eighth Street Southwest and Diamond Drive along State Avenue South.

There have been eight accidents, two with injuries, in that area since 2010, Dassinger said. There were seven citations issued involving those eight accidents, three each for driving under the influence and care required, and one for reckless driving. There have been 85 traffic stops in that two-block section of State Avenue South.

If the city were to build a safety feature, Zent asked that the city not pass the cost onto the residents as the lots were there before the improvements to State Avenue occurred.

There could be state funds available through a North Dakota Department of Transportation safety program, City Engineer Craig Kubas said.

“Typically, we put safety features like that to protect vehicles from hazards, not to protect structures from vehicles,” Kubas said. “It’s a little unique in that we’re looking at it from a different angle.”

The commission made no decision on the issue at Monday’s meeting, but it will be heard at the Dec. 2 meeting after city staff has had an opportunity to research possible solutions.

In other news:

— The commission heard a presentation from Wenck Landfill about the options the city has going forward with the city’s refuse disposal. The baler used to compact garbage is near the end of its life and the city needs to decide whether to buy a new baler or move to a loose-fill mobile compaction units. No decisions were made Monday night.

— Dickinson resident and business owner Leon Mallberg questioned the change in plans to the State Avenue railroad overpass. Mallberg owns the UPS building that would be affected by the creation of the overpass.

The commission in October recomended one alternative that the NDDOT found unworkable, so it contacted Minnesota-based engineering firm HDR to draw up two additional plans that could be used to access affected buildings. The commission will see the plans at a later meeting and make another recommendation to the NDDOT.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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