To stop or yield?

The South St. Paul City Council is looking at adding some type of traffic controls along Eighth Avenue South at Richmond, Poplar and Spruce streets, though it’s hoping for input from the neighborhood before putting anything in place. (courtesy of Google Maps)

South St. Paul ponders neighborhood stop sign concerns


The South St. Paul City Council on July 1 began looking at how to make what some residents call busy intersections a bit safer. 

However, at the end of its discussion, the council could not come to a consensus on the best way to address some of the uncontrolled intersections along Eighth Avenue South, and voted to continue the conversation at another meeting.


From the engineering side

Lee Elfering, city engineer, told the council residents who live along Eighth Avenue South had contacted the city wondering about adding traffic controls to the throughway.

“This neighborhood actually has called in, I would say numerous times in the past, wondering about stop signs at intersections that are currently uncontrolled,” he said.

Elfering said the city had told residents they could petition the council for a full stop sign study to be done on Eighth Avenue. The city never received a petition, yet he said city staffers still thought it would be a good idea to look at the area to see if any of the intersections would qualify for two-way or four-way stops. 

Such examination is necessary for a counterintuitive reason.

“People typically want stop signs to slow people down. Stop signs have been proven, engineering study-wise, that they do not slow traffic down,” Elfering said, adding traffic speeds can actually increase after a stop sign because “people are angry they have to stop.”

The city looked at the intersections along Eighth Avenue South, particularly at Spruce and Poplar streets. There was an accident at one of the intersections that Elfering said was particularly bad, with a vehicle ending up on its side. 

Officials from the police department agreed with residents that some sort of traffic controls were needed at the intersections, Elfering said, though in terms of the city’s stop sign policy, none of the intersections met the requirements.

Staffers did recommend yield signs at some of the uncontrolled intersections, including Richmond Street West along with Spruce and Poplar — Elfering said oftentimes in real terms stop signs function more like yields

Yield signs would go up on Eighth Avenue South, so the north-south traffic would yield to east-west traffic at all three intersections.


How to fix the problem

Council member Joe Forester said he lives not far from the area in question.

“Over the years on Poplar Street, I have a son that got a vehicle totaled out by someone coming down Eighth Avenue. I have another son that, going down Spruce Street, had extensive damage to a vehicle from a person coming down Eighth Avenue,” he said, adding while he supports yield signs, he was more supportive of stop signs.

Council member Bill Flatley said studies show people don’t obey stop signs, and wondered how police enforce yields.

Elfering said a yield sign is indicating who has the right-of-way at an intersection. It does not require a driver to slow down or stop, but if another car is coming, it means that other vehicle has the right-of-way. Yield signs are not an enforcement tool for police unless there is an accident at the intersection, he added.

While some council members called for a true study of Eighth Street, other officials said it was likely to have similar results to a study of Ninth Street conducted last year, which did not recommend stop signs for the roadway just a block away.

Forester made a motion for two-way stops, arguing such measures would match traffic controls on the south end of town.

Council member Lori Hansen, who would be willing to do stop signs, said her only concern was the council didn’t get a petition from the neighborhood. She said she’d like to get a petition in order to confirm the neighborhood really wants traffic controls.

Hansen asked the council to hold off on stop signs until the council received a petition from the neighborhood.

Forester’s motion failed, and another motion was made to table the item until the first meeting in September, or sooner if a petition is received. The second motion passed on a 4-3 vote.

–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or

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