At last night’s Ferndale City Council meeting, business owner Steve Martinson addressed the council and City of Ferndale (COF) staff during the public comments segment. He explained how, since the implementation of the traffic signal change at 1st Avenue and Main Street, he has seen his retail business drop off enough that he has had to lay off nearly half his staff.
According to Martinson, who operates Ferndale True Value Hardware on the corner of 1st Avenue and Main Street, his sales have consistently fallen by more than 10% month over month since April when the signals were changed to allow Main Street traffic to flow through the intersection without interruption.
Martinson said, during the same period, his staffing level has gone from 7 to 4 employees due to the loss in business.
Typically, people that speak during the public comment segment of the City Council meetings do not expect an immediate response but Mayor Jon Mutchler asked Public Works Director Kevin Renz to speak on the subject.
Renz told Martinson there had not been a final decision on the traffic signal change as they needed to “have regular traffic patterns in place” before a comparison traffic count could be done to measure any potential benefit. The Slater Road closure displaced an unusual volume of traffic onto Main Street which delayed doing a count. The scheduling of conducting a new traffic count by the City’s traffic engineering contractor has begun according to Renz.
Renz pointed out the subsequent removal of the signal lights was not an indication of a permanent change but a response to the confusion the blinking yellow and red lights seem to cause drivers on all legs of the intersection. Renz said, “If the studies show the change didn’t produce a benefit, those [signal lights] could be reinstalled.”
Renz said a presentation of the anticipated new traffic count data to the City Council by the City’s traffic engineering contractor is hoped to be on the agenda for the February 5th City Council meeting.
Mayor Mutchler added he had been to the Ferndale True Value Hardware store earlier in the day and felt the delays he encountered at the intersection when arriving and departing were no more than he would have expected if the signals were still in place and functioning as they were before the change.
When asked today, Main Street Bar & Grill Owner John Wirts said that, while he hasn’t seen a drop in his business, he has had to give up walking over to Martinson’s hardware store. “Crossing Main Street at that intersection isn’t even worth attempting,” Wirts said. “Instead, I will walk to my truck, drive around the block and park next to the hardware store. And then I will drive back and park, all just to go across the street.”
Other businesses adjacent to the intersection echoed Wirts’ and Martinson’s concerns today when asked. All expressed concern for the safety of Central Elementary students who have to cross Main Street to get to school and get home afterwards. A reduction in the amount of foot traffic and complaints from customers about how difficult it was to access nearby businesses were also common concerns voiced.
One business person, who requested to remain anonymous, said, “of all the places in the area to make it harder for people to get around, the area adjacent to the Riverwalk Park, Ferndale Farmers Market, the access route to Pioneer Park, the entry to downtown and one block from an elementary school was deemed the place to do it.”