City Council supports exit 257
The Jamestown City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday to request the North Dakota Department of Transportation not close exit 257 as part of a maintenance project this summer.
Mayor Katie Andersen cast the lone dissenting vote and Councilman Dan Buchanan was absent from the special meeting Tuesday. Council members Pam Phillips, Ramone Gumke and Steve Brubakken voted in favor.
Andersen said safety concerns expressed during the drafting of the Land Use and Transportation Plan in 2015 prompted her vote.
“During the LUTP discussions we talked about safety,” she said after the meeting. “Those concerns have not been alleviated. We need to find some better way to access Jamestown.”
The off-ramp for exit 257 is on the left side of the eastbound lane of Interstate 94. The exit is between the Jamestown Regional Medical Center exit and the exit at the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and I-94.
Gumke said closing exit 257 would drive more traffic to the other exits, creating bottlenecks and possibly increasing response times for emergency vehicles in the area. He also said the exit had a good safety record despite the off-ramp being located on the left side of the road.
“In 11 years in law enforcement I’ve never covered a crash at that exit,” he said. Gumke formerly worked as a Stutsman County deputy.
Phillips said closing the exit would increase congestion at 25th Street Southwest and U.S. Highway 281.
“The only way out of the (Buffalo) Mall area goes through one stop light,” she said. “That already creates a lot of congestion.”
Jason Babcock, owner of Neighborhood Grocery and Gas, and Colin Wegenast, owner of Lifestyle Appliance and Entertainment Center, businesses located near the off-ramp, also spoke in favor of retaining the exit.
“You don’t want to take away the option for somebody coming into town to spend money,” Wegenast said.
Gumke’s motion requested the NDDOT retain exit 257 until there is a project on the table to replace it.
The Jamestown Land Use and Transportation Plan included an overpass connecting 17th Street Southwest and the newly completed road connecting the Menards area and JRMC.
Travis Dillman, project engineer for Interstate Engineering, said such a project is in Jamestown’s long-term transportation plan but no timeline has been set.
In other business, the City Council unanimously supported other portions of the NDDOT project including plans to add traffic signals at the ramps for exit 258 where Highway 281 crosses I-94 and to retain the exit 257 westbound on-ramp.
Jay Praska, district engineer for the NDDOT, said the department is taking comments on the project through Jan. 19. He expected a decision on the project yet this spring with construction planned for this summer.