Proposal would stop cars from left turns off Commerce

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Vehicles turn left from Commerce Street onto Prince Street Wednesday afternoon. A proposal would extend a median to stop cross traffic from Commerce.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

A discussion about repairing the traffic lights at 21st and Prince streets turned into a debate on possible solutions to traffic congestion at the city’s busiest intersection.

Public Works Director Harry Wang proposed prohibiting cross traffic at the intersection of Prince Street and Commerce Way by extending a median divider already in place by one block. The main purpose of the proposal is to eliminate left turns from Commerce Way onto Prince.

City commissioners expressed concerns during Wednesday’s Public Works meeting that Wang’s proposal would impact businesses on Commerce Way, which is one of the main arteries from the city’s west side to Prince Street.

Traffic Control Supervisor Kevin Musick said the city eventually will have to address the traffic problem in that area. He said the city should think about the overall community, especially if the city grows.

“We can’t keep looking at special interest groups at the expense of the whole community,” he said, adding that the Commerce Way intersection is also prone to accidents.

According to Clovis police records, there have been 66 accidents at the intersection in the last five years.

Public Works committee member and City Commissioner Randy Crowder said a similar suggestion last year to restrict access to Prince Street from Commerce drew opposition from business owners.

City Manager Joe Thomas said while he doubts the businesses would be greatly impacted, removing the intersection would force drivers into other areas not designed to handle heavy traffic flow, such as Ross Street.

“Seventy percent of traffic on Commerce Way wants to go north,” he said. “You’re going to create another problem.”

Wang said drivers will adjust to the new route in time.

Darryle Bender, who owns car dealerships on Mabry Drive, said having two intersections wastes fuel.

“We make more stops than we really need to (make),” he said at Wednesday’s meeting. “Why don’t we streamline that?”

Clint Harden, who owns Twin Cronnie Drive-In on Commerce, said while the proposal could be positive for some people in the community, business owners on Commerce Way will be affected.

“It’s a fix, perhaps, but it does create other problems,” he said when contacted after the meeting.

Wang made the proposal as an option that would also allow the city to replace magnetic traffic light controllers on 21st Street with a more durable camera system.

Wang said the wires controlling westbound traffic on 21st Street are broken. He said new wires could be installed but would not last long.
“It needs to be changed to accommodate (more) traffic,” he said.

Wang said a grant from the Department of Transportation could be used to purchase the cameras, which detect motion, on the condition that the city changes the design of the roadways in the area. The total cost of the project would be about $65,000.

Another option would be to place cameras at both intersections; however, state monies would not be available and it would cost the city $131,000.

Thomas said the city commission would conduct a study session, and the city would hold public meetings before acting on the proposal to reconfigure traffic.