Old Town businessman Richard Gottsponer, who owns Sandbar Trading at 922 E. Douglas, is leading a one-man campaign to get the lights changed at Douglas and Washington.
“That’s just a terrible intersection the way it’s designed today,” he says.
Gottsponer calls the intersection the door mat to Old Town, but he says it’s anything but welcoming.
“This intersection is not very friendly to people trying to come into Old Town,” he says. “It just becomes one more of those things: ‘Well, Old Town is just too hard to get around.’”
He says that’s because there aren’t left turn arrows for cars going north and south.
“They come in a little frustrated,” Gottsponer says of customers who come to his shop and say things such as, “I nearly got killed.”
“You get people trying to zig around drivers.”
For travelers going east and west, there are turn lanes and arrows.
Gottsponer says he’s brought up the issue at various downtown meetings and found that people agree with him but then nothing gets done.
He recently wrote the city. Assistant city engineer Paul Gunzelman says the city is studying the intersection as a result.
“We’re looking into it,” he says.“We are trying to collect some traffic counts to see what the left turn volumes are.”
From his own travel at the intersection, Gunzelman says he wonders if there’s an issue mainly with northbound traffic coming from Kellogg.
He says it would take a large project and a lot of room to get additional turn lanes at the intersection, but he says an arrow potentially could be a quick fix. He says the study will have to look at how any changes at the intersection will impact traffic in other downtown areas.
Gunzelman says he thinks the issue has come up before. He says the study shouldn’t take long.
“I don’t see why you’d have to do a study,” Gottsponer says. “Anybody who travels that all the time begins looking for other options.”
Gottsponer credits the city with improving Old Town parking in the past, and he says he’d like to see some arrows soon “and have that situation fixed in no time.”
“It just makes life easier for everybody.”