Blinking traffic lights on First Avenue in Jamestown may be causing some confusion for drivers and have resulted in increases in speeds on the street, according to Travis Dillman, Jamestown city engineer with Interstate Engineering.

Four traffic signals were set to blink yellow for northbound and southbound traffic as a test of how traffic patterns would change if those lights were eliminated as part of the lane diet planned for the downtown area. The lane diet project will reduce the number of lanes from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center turning lane.

Bids for the project could be let this fall with some construction possible yet this year and completion in 2021.

Dillman said the blinking lights may be replaced with bags over the traffic signals in order to reduce confusion on the street.

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Scott Edinger, Jamestown chief of police, said social media reports of many accidents at those intersections had been exaggerations.

"There were no accidents in the first weeks the lights were blinking," he said.

Edinger did say that there has been a definite increase in traffic speed along the street with fewer traffic signals in place.

There have also been problems with people running through the traffic light on 3rd Street Southeast which is the only traffic signal on First Avenue included in the lane diet plans.

"I do have concerns about the 3rd Street crossing especially when school starts," Edinger said.

The lane diet project is largely funded by a grant from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. Jamestown's First Avenue is also U.S. Highway 281 and traffic signals must meet federal requirements which have resulted in the project eliminating other traffic signals on First Avenue, Dillman said.

Dillman said removing the traffic signals as a test is not a good example of how traffic may flow once the lane diet is complete.

"It is tough to look at this as a full test of the lane diet," he said.

The Jamestown Public Works Committee approved opening bids for the removal of about 47,000 sandbags placed along the James River last fall. The sandbags were placed out of concern the James River would rise last fall after heavy October snowstorms. The bags were left in place out of concern there might be flooding issues this spring.

The river reached the bottom of the sandbag levy last fall but did not rise to the level of the sandbags this spring.

The Jamestown City Council approved a temporary moratorium allowing the city to issue permits for the serving of alcohol on sidewalks in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The application permits have been developed and restaurant and bar owners can make application Friday, according to Sarah Hellekson, city administrator.

If the application is for a location on First Avenue, the forms will be forwarded to the North Dakota Department of Transportation which has jurisdiction in that area. Applications for other areas of Jamestown can be processed by Jamestown city staff.

The moratorium allowing outdoor alcohol service on sidewalks is temporary and an attempt to help businesses survive the economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic although it may be made permanent later.

"We'll gain experience this summer before more permanent steps might be taken," said Mayor Dwaine Heinrich.