Traffic lights at the intersection of Villard and Sims streets will be deactivated Monday.

Traffic along Villard will become continuous, a one stop sign will be placed on Sims.

The stoplights will be covered in bags.

The change is part of a 90-day study with the North Dakota Department of Transportation. A public forum was held on the proposed changes in May.

The City of Dickinson applied for a new NDDOT grant program to replace its street lights and two traffic signals on Villard, City Engineer Craig Kubas explained.

"Through the project development, the DOT hired their own consultant to design the project and through that development, found the traffic signals at Villard and Sims was not warranted through crashes and traffic fines, and such," he said.

No federal aid could be used for the Sims/Villard traffic lights.

"Once it dies, it has to disappear," City Administrator Joe Gaa said.

In addition to removing the traffic signals, Villard will go from four lanes to three lanes in 2020, including a central turning lane.

With the road changes, additional pedestrian safety features will be added, particularly from Sims Street to First Avenue.

"We're really cleaning up pedestrian safety and putting in a crosswalk," Gaa said. "Those are the things we'll learn during this process of what needs to be done to improve that safety."

Within one hour of notice being posted on the city's Facebook account about the change, more than 50 comments had been posted expressing fears and concerns for public safety.

The intersection does not have a history of crashes or incidents, though, Kubas said.

"We have evidence from people just anecdotally, saying there were near misses" he said. "But when we pulled reports on that corridor in the past, Highway 22 and Villard has probably the highest incidences of crashes there, but still not enough to consider it a 'high crash' area."

He added, "I don't have any concerns between now and when it becomes a three-lane road."

Traffic safety could actually improve with the changes, Gaa said.

"People take off from the stoplight at Sims in kind of a drag-racing style," he said. "If you're down there, you don't have anywhere to go. In this case, there's not going to be any light to take off from."

Pedestrian crossing could also improve with only three lanes, as well.

"Somebody's standing there waiting, so someone coming in one of the lanes is polite and stops, but the next driving lane hasn't seen that person and creates a real horrible situation," Gaa said.

Based on the results of the 90-day trial period, the stoplight poles at Sims and Villard would be removed in 2020 as part of the other streetlight upgrades.

The city will benefit from the enhancements, Kubas said.

"Villard hasn't been the most well lit corridor, and this would be all new LEDs. There's also an energy savings," he said. "And overall the appearance of our corridor, coming into downtown, needs a facelift. Those lights are 50 to 60 years old."

Public safety along Villard will also improve with the changes, Gaa said.

"It does have a lot of potential safety improvements once the new markings are done," he said, "and the new lights, I think, will make it more brighter and give it a safer feeling at night."

At the end of the 90-day period, if the study proves the intersection is safer with the stoplights, Gaa said the lights can be uncovered and reactivated.