This explains the process of how an address is assigned to a property.
Policy on Addressing
Addresses are assigned by the City Engineer, or his designee, and take effect through the transmission and distribution of an Address Assignment Letter.Addresses are officially assigned for:
- Addresses are officially assigned for:
New Plats - Addresses are assigned following City Council approval of the Final Plat. Proposed lot addresses may be determined for the Final Plat prior to its acceptance, however, the City will not issue an Address Assignment Letter prior to Final Plat approval.
Certified Survey Maps (CSMs) - Addresses will be assigned following Common Council Approval.
Existing Lots - If an address has not been previously assigned (is not listed in the Assessor's Atlas or the City's GIS) then new addresses will be assigned at the time of building permit application. If there is an existing address for the lot, then an Address Confirmation Letter may be issued, pending the development situation. It is not necessary to issue an Address Confirmation Letter for lots in subdivisions within the first 36 months following Final Plat Approval.
Addresses are assigned on a grid that originates at the intersection of Main Street and Elm Street.
A preferred address grid has been established for future City development areas within the Urban Area boundary. The grid attempts to reflect that four hundred forty (440) feet is equivalent to 100 address units or one (1) mile equals 1200 address units. This practice follows the grid layout of the established downtown streets, where the centerline-to-centerline length of blocks is 440 feet, or 12 blocks per mile. The grid has been adjusted to fit with past assigned addresses where possible. The grid will be adjusted to reflect actual address assignments and street layouts when developed. Efforts should be made to cause 100 break points in the grid to fall at established intersections.
Each street name shall be addressed as a north-south street or as an east-west street depending on the direction that results in the greatest number of address units for that street. North-south and east-west addressing shall not be combined for the same street name.
Streets directions/names break East-West at Main Street and North-South at Elm Street, or its closest alignment (i.e. Hazel Street).
Addresses are assigned such that odd numbers are on the north and west sides of the street and even numbers are on the south and east sides of the street.
Addresses are assigned to the street where the principal building entrance faces. Note: that driveway locations and curb openings do not determine address assignments.
Addresses for undeveloped lots (CSMs and Final Plats):
Addresses for undeveloped lots shall be assigned for where the center of the lot falls on the addressing grid.
Two addresses will be assigned for corner lots when the Final Plat or CSM is approved. The permanent building address shall be selected from the assigned options at the time of building permit application when the direction of the principal entrance faces is determined.
One address number is to be assigned per single-family dwelling unit. Single-family dwelling units are defined as: single-family homes, and the individual, side-by-side elements of multiplexes, town houses and twin-homes with individual principal entrances.
One address number is to be assigned for each occupied building of a multiple family dwelling complex, where multiple residences share a common principal entrance. Occupied buildings include residences and managerial office space, if separate.
For business and commercial establishments, one address number is to be assigned for each principal building entrance.
Multiple businesses using the same principal entrance shall share the same address and be designated as Suite #1, #2 #3. Lettered (A, B, or C) suites shall not be used; these designators are reserved for the extension of primary building addresses.
Large commercial establishments may have more than one principal entrance (such as office space and plant space) and may be assigned multiple addresses for separate entrances at the approval of the City Engineer.
Use of "½," or "A/B" designators:
If the unit to be numbered is on a second story (above or below) and is accessed by its own separate entrance, then it shall receive the same number as the primary address followed by "1/2."
When multiple buildings are addressed on the same lot such that one building obscures another, then the lot shall have one primary address number (##) and each building shall be followed by a letter extension (##A, ##B, ##C). Building "##A" shall be either the primary building, or that which is closest to the street. The addition of a second building on a lot shall cause the first building to be re-addressed with either an "A" or "B" extension. The addition of subsequent buildings shall follow with the next available letter.
In areas where there are existing address assignments:
Addresses will be assigned to match the existing numbers, such that adjacent buildings are numbered in an either ascending or descending sequence.
Number ranges should closely approximate adjacent blocks' number ranges to facilitate ease of use such that the address assignments assist rather than hinder the search for an address (ie: emergency response).
In situations where the roadway is curvilinear, and does not follow the conventional addressing grid, then the addresses will be assigned by the predominant roadway direction such that when traveling a street, all address on one side of the street are consistently odd or even.
The original address assignment and confirmation letters shall be sent to the property owner or the property developer. A location map depicting the lot and/or building address(es) shall be included with each letter.
The City will issue copies of address assignment and confirmation letters to the utilities (gas, electric, telephone, cable TV 911 emergency response services, U.S. Postal Service, school bus garage, County real property lister, and others who by the nature of their business are required to know the address and location of all properties in the city.
Children at Play -
The City of River Falls often receives requests to install signs warning drivers of the possible presence of "Children at Play." These signs are deceiving and are ineffective. Drivers should expect the presence of children in residential areas. Studies show that devices attempting to warn motorists of normal conditions or conditions that are not always present do not achieve the desired safety benefits.
Some cities have posted “Children at Play” signs in residential areas despite studies showing that generalized signs warning of normal conditions such as children in a residential area fail to achieve the desired safety benefits.
"CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs may give parents and children a false sense of security as the sign is assumed to provide protection, which in reality it does not. Due to these serious considerations, federal standards no longer include "CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs. Special conditions such as warnings of school zones, playgrounds, parks and other recreational facilities, do warrant signing, as these are not easily anticipated by drivers.
Q: Are “Children at Play” signs effective?
A: “Children at Play” signs tend to create a false sense of security for parents and children who believe the signs provide added protection when motorists, particularly local ones, actually pay little attention to them. The use of “Children at Play” and similar signs are not a recognized traffic control device by the State of Wisconsin. The signs are a direct and open suggestion to small children that playing in or beside the roadway is safe.
Q: How do I get speed limits lowered for children playing in the streets?
A: Concerned citizens often request lower speed limits on residential streets where children are playing. The statutory speed limit on most residential streets is 25 MPH. The State of Wisconsin does not allow for speed limits below 25 MPH except in school zones. Read more regarding speed limits later on this page.
Q: How can I make my neighborhood a safe place for children to play?
A: Signs that are not necessary confuse drivers and encourage disrespect for all signs. However, signs should be posted, for school zones, pedestrian crossings, playgrounds, and other recreational areas, where a need exists.
Most importantly, parents should never allow their children to play in the street. Neighborhood parks are available in many residential areas where children can play safely with proper supervision.
Q: What is the City’s policy on “Children at Play” signs?
A: The City does not install “Children at Play” or similar signs, “Slow” or “Slow - Entering Residential Area,” for the following reasons:
1. These types of signs are not recognized by the State or Federal Highway Administration as official traffic control devices.
2. Placing these signs would suggest that the City allows children to play in the street. The City is unable to assume this responsibility due to the obvious liability associated with it.
A crosswalk is that area of a roadway where pedestrians have the right of way. Crosswalks may be "marked" or "unmarked." A "marked crosswalk" is any crosswalk which is delineated by white or yellow painted markings placed on the pavement. All other crosswalk locations are therefore "unmarked." Under the Wisconsin Law, crosswalks exist at all intersections, extending across the street from the corner curbs, or on other parts of the street designated as pedestrian crossing locations by the painted lines, unless signed otherwise.
Q: Are marked crosswalks safer than unmarked crosswalks?
A: The City of San Diego conducted a study on the issue in the 1970's, and the report conclusions are often cited as the first comprehensive study of crosswalk safety. Investigators in San Diego observed over 400 intersections during a five-year study period. The results demonstrated that during the five-year period, 177 pedestrians were hit in 400 marked crosswalks compared to 31 pedestrians hit in 400 corresponding unmarked crosswalks.
The study reported that "...more pedestrian accidents occur in marked crosswalks than in unmarked crosswalks by a ratio of approximately 6:1. Furthermore, comparison of the volume of pedestrians using the marked and unmarked crosswalks shows that the crosswalk use ratio is approximately 3:1. This indicates, in terms of usage, that approximately two times as many pedestrian accidents occur in marked crosswalks as compared with unmarked crosswalks. Evidence suggests that this poor accident record is not due to the crosswalk being marked as much as it is a reflection on the pedestrians' attitude and behavior when using the marked crosswalk..."
Q: How are crosswalks used?
A: At any crosswalk (marked or unmarked) drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Crosswalks are marked mainly to encourage pedestrians to use a particular crossing. Studies conducted on the relative safety of crosswalks support minimal installation of marked crosswalks.
Q: How and where are crosswalks normally installed?
A: Crosswalks are installed at intersections where there is substantial conflict between vehicle and pedestrian movements, where significant pedestrian concentrations occur, where pedestrians could not otherwise recognize the proper place to cross, and where traffic movements are controlled. Examples of these locations are as follows:
- Approved school crossings
- Signalized and four-way stop intersections
These examples follow the philosophy of marking crosswalks as a form of encouragement. We are encouraging school children to use a crossing which is normally being monitored. In the second example, we are encouraging all pedestrians to avoid a prohibited crossing.
Q: When are crosswalks not installed?
A: It is the City of River Falls policy not to paint crosswalks at mid-block or other locations where traffic is not controlled by stop signs or traffic signals. Painted crosswalks should only be used where necessary to direct pedestrians along the safest route.
Q: What causes accidents at marked crosswalks?
A: Research suggests that marked crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security. Pedestrians often step off the curb into the crosswalk expecting drivers of vehicles approaching the crosswalk to stop. However, drivers frequently fail to stop and cause an accident. At all crosswalks, both marked and unmarked, it is the pedestrian’s responsibility to be cautious and alert before starting to cross the street.
At crosswalks on multi-lane roadways, another frequent factor in causing accidents involves the driver of a vehicle in the lane nearest to the curb stopping for a pedestrian that is waiting to cross or who is already in the crosswalk. The driver of a second vehicle traveling in the lane next to the stopped vehicle tries to pass the stopped vehicle and hits the pedestrian, even though it is illegal for drivers to pass a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk. Pedestrians should be very cautious when walking in a crosswalk, especially when their visibility is limited by vehicles already stopped at the crosswalk.
Q: What are special school crosswalks?
A: When a marked crosswalk has been established adjacent to a school building or school grounds, it shall be painted yellow. Other established marked crosswalks may be painted yellow if either the nearest point of a crosswalk is not more than 600 feet from a school building or grounds.
Lake George Algae -
In September 2004, a letter was written to the River Falls Journal expressing concern over the algae problems in Lake George. Included in that letter was a feeling that the dams should be removed because of this problem. We have posted here our responses to some common algae and dam removal questions.
Q: What Causes Algae?
A: The development of an algae bloom depends upon local conditions and site-specific characteristics. But they generally occur where there are high levels of nutrients, principally phosphorus, together with warm, sunny and calm conditions.
The main source of nutrients in Lake George is sediment, which has accumulated behind the dams since they were constructed over 100 years ago. This sediment resulted from poor upland soil conservation practices that were generally followed prior to 1960. It has been estimated that in the 1950’s, sediment was accumulating in Lake George at a rate of 2,500 cubic yards per year. In the 1990’s the estimated rate of sediment accumulation had dropped to 500 cubic yards per year.
The Kinnickinnic Priority Watershed Project indicated that the current sources of sediment in the Kinnickinnic River at River Falls are:
All Uplands............................. 83%
Streambank Erosion................ 3%
Erosion of Dry Runs................ 6%
Urban Runoff........................... 5%
Construction Sites.................... 3%
Q: How much of the algae problem is caused by the two dams on the river?
A: The algae is caused by nutrient rich soil that is accumulated behind the dams. Without the dams in place, this nutrient rich soil would have been transported further downstream.
Q: What kinds of changes have been observed over the years as far as the amount of algae goes?
A: The delivery of nutrient rich soil to the Kinnickinnic River has been significantly decreased over the past 30-years and continues to get better. This directly leads to less production of algae in both the rivers and the lakes because they are receiving less nutrient rich sediment. However, significant nutrient rich sediment deposits remain and lakes are very slow to recover after excessive phosphorus inputs have been eliminated.
Q: Is there a possibility of removing the dams to help remove the algae? Why or why not?
A: Removing the dams would result in the reduction of algae present on the lake because the lake would no longer be there. If the dams were no longer there to trap the nutrient rich sediments that are being transported in the river, the algae problem would simply move downstream, therefore it would be critical to implement new measures that prevent nutrient rich sediments from entering the river.
Q: What kinds of options are there for removing the algae? Is it harmful?
A: Typically, the first steps taken target the control of the external sources of phosphorus and can include: encouraging the use of phosphorus free fertilizers; improving agricultural practices, reducing urban run-off; and restoring vegetation buffers around waterways.
Lakes are very slow to recover after excessive phosphorus inputs have been eliminated. Furthermore, it’s extremely difficult to achieve recovery of lake conditions without additional in-lake management. This is due to the fact that lake sediments become phosphorus rich and can deliver excessive amounts of phosphorus to the overlying water. When dissolved oxygen levels decrease in the bottom waters of the lake (anaerobic conditions), large amounts of phosphorus trapped in the bottom sediments are released into the overlying water. This process is often called internal nutrient loading or recycling.
Alum is used primarily to control this internal recycling of phosphorus from the sediments of the lake bottom that result in algae. On contact with water, alum forms a fluffy aluminum hydroxide precipitate called floc. Aluminum hydroxide (the principle ingredient in common antacids such as Maalox) binds with phosphorus to form an aluminum phosphate compound. This compound is insoluble in water under most conditions so the phosphorus in it can no longer be used as food by algae organisms. As the floc slowly settles, some phosphorus is removed from the water. The floc also tends to collect suspended particles in the water and carry them down to the bottom, leaving the lake noticeably clearer. On the bottom of the lake the floc forms a layer that acts as a phosphorus barrier by combining with phosphorus as it is released from the sediments.
Q: How long have the dams been around for? What is their purpose?
A: The power plant started here in 1900, that’s when the first hydro was put in. The upper dam produces 250-kilowatts/hr maximum and the lower dam produces 125-kw/hr maximum. The amount produced is based on the flow in the river. The dams are operated in “run of the river” fashion. This means that they do not store additional water behind the dams during times of low energy use in order to generate more energy at peak times. Instead, the hydro plants use whatever natural flow exists in the river to produce energy.
There was a smaller rock and crib dam built in 1865, which is located between the upper dam and the Winter Street Bridge. It is currently under water, but still there. This dam provided electricity to convert gas streetlights on Main Street into electric streetlights to prevent fires, which is how the utility was first started.
Q: How long of a process would removing the dams be?
A: The process would involve a significant number of entities and agencies. The process would probably take between 3 and 6 years.
Q: As far as the city is concerned, how much of a problem is the algae and how much of a prerogative for the city is the issue?
A: The City is concerned with anything that results in adverse water quality impacts to the Kinnickinnic River. Arguments could be made that the algae in the lakes results in minor adverse water quality impacts on the Kinnickinnic River. However, if dam removal is to be considered, measures must be taken to offset the sediment removal function that the dams currently provide so that nutrient rich sediments are not unnecessarily introduced into the lower Kinnickinnic River.
Such measures are currently being evaluated by the City through a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The scope of this work is to conduct a detailed feasibility study focused on reconfiguring Lake George to act as a storm water quality facility for runoff and also to determine if a concept can be developed that would be viable whether or not the dam remains in place long-term. The study is also considering alternative treatment options that will identify the alternative treatment system that could be implemented in this watershed without reconfiguring Lake George.
Mosquito Concerns -
Mosquitoes have taken on a greater concern in the public eye recently, due to the presence of West Nile Virus. The City has taken measures to reduce the risk of West Nile Virus to its residents. There are also many things residents can do to protect themselves and their families from the threat of West Nile Virus.
Mosquitoes have always been a nuisance insect. However, with the recent West Nile Virus concerns, there is a heightened concern to eliminate mosquito populations. We have provided here information about mosquitoes in general, but most specifically about West Nile Virus mosquitoes.
Q: Do all mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus?
A: No, there are 53 known mosquito populations in the state of Wisconsin. Only one of those is the main carrier of the West Nile Virus (WNV), the Cultex mosquito.
Q: What can you do to help fight mosquitoes at your home?
A: Cultex mosquitoes only lay their eggs in shallow stagnant water. They typically fly only 1/4 mile from where the hatch. Therefore, eliminating shallow, stagnant water will eliminate the breeding grounds for the Cultex mosquito; this can be done in many ways:
- Empty standing water in buckets, plastic covers, toys or other items mosquitoes may live and breed in.
- Dispose of old tires or store indoors.
Note: One tire can produce up to 500 mosquitoes!
- Check for water in plastic tarps over pools and boats.
- Fill in drain puddles, ruts in your yard, hollow tree stumps, etc.
- Water in swimming pools should be circulating if possible.
- Keep your rain gutters unclogged.
- Keep ditches and culverts free of weeds and trash.
- Empty and change water in birdbaths, potted plant trays, and wading pools at least once a week.
- Make sure window and door screens are bug tight.
- Replace outdoor lights with yellow "bug lights"
Q: How is the City of River Falls avoiding the breeding of mosquitoes?
A: Mosquitoes do not breed in deep ponds. They breed in shallow areas of water. The current standards of the City of River Falls call for storm water ponds to be at least four feet deep. These ponds attempt to mitigate the effects of development, such as erosion problems, increased water pollution, destruction of stream habitat, and decreasing groundwater recharge.
The dry ponds and infiltration ponds within the City are designed to drain in 48 hours. When the ponds take more than 2 hours to drain, they will be scheduled for maintenance to restore the design infiltration rate of 48 hours. Typically, mosquito larvae require four days (96 hours) to fully develop.
The City hopes these ponds will provide a very natural look and feel to City neighborhoods. Native, no-mow grasses are used to enhance the natural feel as well as to provide habitat for natural predators of mosquitoes, such as birds, bats, dragonflies, frogs and other amphibians.
Q: How can you personally reduce your risk to WNV?
A: It is impossible to eliminate all habitats for mosquitoes, however, there are some easy measures you can take to protect yourself:
Limit your time outdoors at dawn and dusk during the mosquito season (June-September)
Wear shoes, socks, long-sleeve shirts and long pants when outdoors.
Apply insect repellents with DEET to exposed skin when outdoors.
Spray clothes with insect repellents to deter mosquitoes from biting through them.
Q: What about chemical treatments?
A: The City has looked into this option for shallow ponds. The WI Department of Natural Resources (DNR) states that it is illegal for anyone to place a pesticide in non-containerized standing water without a permit. Due to potential environmental impacts of chemical treatments, permits require in-depth monitoring and supporting evidence for approval. In fact, there is only one approved mosquito control district in the region and that is in La Crosse, due to the vast flood plains of the Mississippi River, and the many wetlands and marshes present there. (For a copy of the DNR info sheet, please stop by City Hall)
Q: Can you stock the ponds with fish?
A: In this climate in order for fish to survive the winter freeze, the ponds must be 8-10 feet deep. Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in shallow water, ponds where fish can survive should have minimal mosquito problems anyway.
References and other available information:
WI West Nile Virus Hotline:
WI West Nile Virus Hotline:
River Falls has recently constructed a roundabout at the Cemetery Road/ Wasson Lane intersection. The following information can help you navigate this new roundabout and learn more about the safety benefits of roundabouts.
Q: What is a roundabout?
A: A modern roundabout is an unsignalized circular intersection engineered to maximize safety and minimize traffic delay. Over the last few decades, thousands of roundabouts have been installed in Europe, Australia and other parts of the world. Recently, they have gained support in the United States with many states getting experience with their use and design. In the cities and towns where roundabouts have been built, and even where the public has been hesitant about accepting them initially, roundabouts ultimately have been accepted enthusiastically because of the increased safety they provide, along with traffic calming, and aesthetic benefits.
Q: Why are roundabouts used instead of a signal light?
Q: How can such impressive crash reductions be explained?
A: One reason is that there is a reduction in the number of conflict points within the facility. The circulatory vehicle movements at roundabouts eliminate or drastically reduce the critical conflicts resulting from red light running, left-turns against opposing traffic, right-angle conflicts at corners, and rear-end collisions. As the figure below shows, a standard intersection has 32 potential vehicle-to-vehicle conflicts versus 8 for a roundabout, according to the FWHA Roundabout Guide. In addition, modern roundabouts are designed such that traffic enters at nearly right angles to circulating traffic. Also, roundabouts are relatively small (compared to traffic circles) so traffic speeds are slower. This allows more opportunities to enter circulating traffic and fewer accidents result.
Q: How do I navigate the roundabout?
A: The sections below outline how drivers, bikers, pedestrians and trucks navigate in a roundabout.
Drivers in a roundabout
- When approaching the roundabout, slow down and yield to pedestrians.
- Look to the left, as traffic in the roundabout has the right-of-way.
- Enter when it is safe and there is an adequate gap in the circulating traffic flow.
- Keep your speed low within the roundabout.
- As you approach your exit, turn on your right turn signal.
- Exit carefully to your destination, yielding to pedestrians.
Bicyclists in a roundabout
- If you are riding on the shoulder or bike lane, merge into the traffic lane before the shoulder ends.
- Signal your intent to move into traffic.
- Once inside the roundabout, don't hug the curb.
- Ride close to the middle of the lane to prevent cars from passing and cutting you off.
- Watch for cars waiting to enter the roundabout, as they may not see you.
- If you do not want to ride your bike in the roundabout, use the sidewalk to walk your bicycle and proceed as a pedestrian.
Pedestrians in a roundabout
- Stay on designated walkways at all times.
- Watch for cars; you have the right-of-way, but your best protection is your own attention.
- Cross one lane at a time, using the splitter island as a refuge area before crossing the next lane.
- Never cross to the large round central island.
Trucks in a roundabout
- Drive on the circulatory roadway, except large trucks and trailers may use the truck apron provided to negotiate the tight turning radius.
- Drive on the raised pavement of the truck apron to navigate more easily.
- Cars should not use the truck apron.
Q: Where can I go for more information?
I had stopped in last Friday to discuss roundabouts with you. I have lived overseas in various countries over the years and have traveled to many more and have learned to love the efficiency and ease of roundabouts. As such, I'm forwarding some information I have recently obtained regarding his subject. In the e-mail below it should be noted that the chiefs for both the police and fire departments in Maplewood are on the road speaking to other communities about the increased safety when roundabouts are installed.
I am pleased to see that the city of River Falls is planning to install its first one over by the high school and look forward to many more in and around the city. If there are any public meetings/hearings regarding these, I would be interested in being present to support these projects.
109 N. 3rd St.
As a resident of the South Valley Second Addition who has occasion to drive the turnabout every single day, I wanted to let you know how pleased we are with this improvement to the intersection. From my perspective, the traffic moves smoothly without delays. Thanks to you and your staff for developing this alternative to a stoplight.
W9402 812th Avenue
Signal lights have a red light that means stop, a green light that means go, and a yellow (amber) light, which when on by itself and not flashing means stop if able to do so safely.
A flashing amber means that a motorist may go ahead with care if the road is clear, giving way to pedestrians and to other road vehicles that may have priority. A flashing red essentially means the same as a regular stop sign.
There may be additional lights such as a green arrow to authorize turns. A turn light preceding the opposing through movement is called a leading left turn because it leads the opposing through green light. Likewise, a left turn arrow that follows the opposing through movement is known as a "lagging left turn".
Unless prohibited by regulatory signs, traffic may turn right after stopping on a red provided they yield to pedestrians and other vehicles. Some intersections (northbound Main at Cascade) have a green arrow to indicate specifically when a right turn is allowed without having to yield to pedestrians (this is when westbound traffic on Cascade is making a left turn onto main Street and thus no pedestrians are allowed in the intersection anyway).
Some signals have dedicated signals for turning across the flow of opposing traffic. Such signals are called dedicated left-turn lights since opposing traffic is on the left. With dedicated left turn signals, a left-pointing arrow turns green when traffic may turn left without conflict, and turns red or disappears otherwise. Such a signal is referred to as a "protected" signal if a red arrow appears after the phase; a "permissive" signal has no left arrow.
Three standard versions of the permissive signal exist.
- One version is a horizontal bar with five lights - the green and yellow arrows are located between the standard green and yellow lights.
- A vertical 5-light bar holds the arrows underneath the standard green light.
- A third type is known as a "doghouse" or "cluster head" - a vertical column with the two normal lights is on the right hand side of the signal, a vertical column with the two arrows is located on the left, and the normal red signal is in the middle above the two columns.
If there is no left-turn signal, one must yield to opposing traffic and turn when it is safe to do so. Such lights tend to make intersections safer by reducing the risk of head-on collisions and may speed up through traffic, but may decrease the overall efficiency of the intersection as it becomes congested, depending on what proportion of traffic is turning.
Traffic light failure in most jurisdictions must be handled by drivers as a four-way stop, pending the arrival of a police officer to direct traffic or deploy emergency unfoldable stop signs.
In the mid 1990s, cost-effective traffic light lamps using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were developed; prior to this date traffic lights were designed using incandescent or halogen light bulbs. Unlike the incandescent-based lamps, which use a single large bulb, the LED-based lamps consist of an array of LED elements, arranged in various patterns. When viewed from a distance, the array appears as a continuous light source (unless closely examined).
LED-based lamps have numerous advantages over incandescent lamps; among them are:
- Much greater energy efficiency. The operational expenses of LED-based signals are far lower than equivalent incandescent-based lights.
- Much longer lifetime between replacement, measured in years rather than months. Some of the longer lifetime is due to the fact that the light is an array which allows the light to be used even if some of the LEDs in the array are dead.
- Brighter illumination with better contrast even in direct sunlight. The ability to display multiple colors and patterns from the same lamp. Individual LED elements can be enabled or disabled, and different color LEDs can be mixed in the same lamp.
Control and Coordination
Traffic signals must be instructed when to change phase. They can also be coordinated so that the phase changes called for occur in some relationship with nearby signals.
Traffic signal phase changes are based on one of three systems: pre-timed, semi-actuated, and fully-actuated. The simplest control system uses a timer; each phase of the signal lasts for a specific duration before the next phase occurs; this pattern repeats itself regardless of traffic. Many older traffic light installations still use timers; timer-based signals are effective in one-way grids where it is often possible to coordinate the traffic lights to the posted speed limit. (See also Signal timing)
More sophisticated control systems use electronic sensor loops buried in the pavement to detect the presence of traffic waiting at the light, and thus can avoid giving the green light to an empty road while motorists on a different route are stopped. A timer is frequently used as a backup in case the sensors fail; an additional problem with sensor-based systems is that they may fail to detect vehicles such as motorcycles or bicycles and cause them to wait forever (or at least until a detectable vehicle also comes to wait for the light). The sensor loops typically work in the same fashion as metal detectors; small vehicles or those with low metal content may fail to be detected.
It is also commonplace to alter the control strategy of a traffic light based on the time of day and day of the week, or for other special circumstances (such as a major event causing unusual demand at an intersection).
Although the use of sophisticated technology allows signal light to operate more efficiently, it also introduces the potential for malfunctions to create significant traffic problems. As described above, modern signal system utilize electronic sensor loops to detect the absence and presence of vehicles. These detector loops are subject to the following modes of failure:
- The sensors may not detect a vehicle waiting for a green light. This problem can be caused by a number of factors:
- Vehicles stopping behind or in front of the detector loops. Drivers should pay close attention to the "Stop Lines" (12" - 24" thick white lines) at a signalized intersection making sure they stop and remain stopped just behind the stop lines.
- The detectors may have malfunctioned due to a variety of reasons. Often, such a problem can be fixed by a technician visiting the signal controller cabinet and "resetting" the detector.
- Physical makeup of vehicle is not detected by loop. Although this problem has been reduced by advancements in loop technology, occasionally problems still crop up If you repeatedly experience problems with your vehicle being detected, report the problem to the Engineering Department. Some adjustments to the sensitivity of the detectors are possible.
- The sensors may detect a vehicle waiting for a green light even though one is not present. This can cause considerable problems with mainline traffic during peak volume hours because the signal will give large unnecessary periods of "green" to the minor street cross traffic which really does not exist.
- This problem is most always the caused by malfunctioning detectors. Often, such a problem can be fixed by a technician visiting the signal controller cabinet and "resetting" the detector.
Contact the Engineering Department at 425-0900 to report problems with the signal lights within the City.
All traffic signals in River Falls are equipped with traffic light preemption for emergency vehicles such as fire engines, ambulances, and police squad cars. These systems operate with small transmitters that signals that are received by a sensor on or near the traffic lights. Upon activation, the normal traffic light cycle is suspended and replaced by the "preemption sequence" that gives a green light in the direction of the oncoming vehicle that has triggered the preemption sequence. A white signal light is placed nearby to indicate to the preempting vehicle that the preempting sequence has been activated and to warn other motorists of the approach of an emergency vehicle. The normal traffic light cycle resumes after the sensor has been passed by the vehicle that triggered the preemption.
Speed Limits -
Speed limits are often taken for granted and, until a problem arises, most people pay little attention to them. The following information will help you understand how speed limits are established, and what they can and cannot do.
Speed limits are often taken for granted and, until a problem arises, most people pay little attention to them. When traffic problems occur, concerned citizens frequently ask why we do not lower the speed limit. There are widely held misconceptions that speed limit signs will slow the speed of motorists, reduce collisions, and increase safety. Most drivers drive at a speed which they consider to be appropriate, regardless of the posted speed limit. "Before and After" studies have shown that there are no significant changes in average vehicle speeds following the posting of new or revised speed limits. The following information will help you understand how speed limits are established, and what they can and cannot do.
"Reasonable and Prudent" - Wisconsin law says you must drive within what's called a "reasonable and prudent" limit. That means you not only have to obey the posted speed limit, you must drive a vehicle no faster than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions.
- Weather conditions such as fog, rain, ice or snow as well as heavy traffic or congestion mean you have to reduce your speed to the point where you're able to control the vehicle and avoid colliding with any object, person or vehicle.
- Other conditions requiring you to slow down are: approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hillcrest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, when passing school children, highway construction or maintenance workers or other pedestrians.
Statutory Speed Limits - These are the generally established legal speed limits (in miles per hour or MPH) a motorist must obey, and the conditions under which they apply. Limits may differ from these guidelines when indicated by official traffic signs.
- 15 MPH
- When passing a school when children are going to or from school or are playing within the sidewalk area near the school.
- When passing an intersection marked with a "school crossing" sign when children are present.
- When passing a safety zone occupied by pedestrians and at which a public passenger vehicle has stopped to receive or discharge passengers.
- On any street or town road, except a state highway or connecting highway, within or near a public park or recreation area when children are going to or from or are playing. This limit applies when the local city or town has enacted an ordinance and posted the limit and where motorists would enter the street from an area where a different speed limit is in effect.
- In any alley.
- 25 MPH
- On any highway within the corporate limits of a city or village, other than on highways in outlying districts.
- On any service road within the corporate limits of a city or village.
- 35 MPH
- In any outlying district within the corporate limits of a city or village.
- On any highway in a semi-urban district outside the corporate limits of a city or village.
- On any town road where on either side of the highway within 1,000 feet the buildings in use average less than 150 feet apart. This limit applies when a city or town board has adopted an ordinance determining such a speed limit and has posted signs.
- 45 MPH
- On any highway designated as a rustic road.
- 55 MPH
- In the absence of any other fixed limits or the posting of limits as required or authorized by law.
- 65 MPH
- On any freeway or expressway, when official signs specifying this limit are posted.
Some of the questions most frequently asked are answered below:
Q: Can local authorities modify statutory speed limits?
A: State law allows limited changes to statutory speed limits if those changes are based on an engineering and traffic investigation.
Q: What is considered in an engineering and traffic investigation?
Traffic engineers and police officers examine many traffic and road conditions to determine a reasonable speed limit. Speed studies are performed to determine the 85th percentiles speed, or the speed that 85 out of 100 vehicles travel at or below. This speed is based on the principle that reasonable drivers will consider road conditions when selecting their speed of travel. Other conditions evaluated include number and type of crashes, number of cars, pedestrians, and bicycles, along with physical conditions of the road such as sidewalks, hills, curves, lanes, driveways, intersections, roadway surface, and traffic controls.
Generally speaking, a safe and reasonable limit is set at or below the speed at which 85% of the drivers drive. Posting an appropriate speed limit simplifies the job of enforcement officers, since most of the traffic is voluntarily moving at the posted speed. Blatant speeders are easily spotted, safe drivers are not penalized, and patrol officers aren't expected to enforce unrealistic and arbitrary speed limits.
Q: How can I get a speed limit sign placed on my street to slow traffic?
A: The most common misconception about speed limits is that putting up a sign will slow the speed of traffic, reduce accidents, and increase safety.
The truth is, most drivers drive at a speed that they consider to be comfortable and safe, regardless of the posted speed limit. The City of River Falls does not usually install signs on most residential streets, but instead relies on the Wisconsin Vehicle Code. Studies have shown that there are no significant changes in average vehicle speeds following the posting of new or revised speed limit signs. Furthermore, there is no direct relationship found between posted speed limits and accident frequency.
However, there are ways to slow down drivers on your street:
- Increased Enforcement - This requires an officer to ticket those drivers driving at excessive speeds.
- Speed Monitoring Awareness Radar Tool (Smart Trailer)
The City has a radar device, mounted on a small trailer, to clock vehicles and exhibit their speed on an oversized display board. The device has helped control chronic speeding problems by letting motorists know when they are exceeding the limit. This device is set up by the River Falls Police Department upon request and availability.
Q: Can I get the speed limit lowered on my street to make it safer?
A: No, lower speed limits do not necessarily improve safety. The more uniform the speeds of vehicles in a traffic stream, the less chance there is for conflict and crashes. Posting speed limits lower or higher than what the majority of drivers are traveling produces two distinct groups of drivers - those attempting to observe the limit and those driving at what they feel is reasonable and prudent. These differences in speeds may result in increased crashes due to tailgating, improper passing, reckless driving, and weaving from lane to lane. Inappropriate established speed limits also foster disregard for other speed limits, traffic signs, and contribute to driver frustration.
Also, posting speed limits lower than the 85th percentile speed does not result in voluntary motorist compliance with the posted speed limit unless there is strict, continuous, and visible enforcement. Increased enforcement is effective only at the immediate time and in the area where the police officer is present. The availability of police officers is limited and their services must be shared with other police responsibilities. Since these lower speed limits cannot be properly enforced, they will be consistently violated and will breed disregard for speed limits in general.
Q: Why not install stop signs, traffic signals, speed bumps, or some other device to reduce speeds?
A: Traffic control devices are designed and installed to solve a particular problem. When they are misused for speed control purposes, they are ineffective and may create a hazard. For example:
- Stop signs are designed to control traffic at busy intersections. When used to reduce speed, motorists "roll" through them, then increase their speed between such signs.
- Traffic signals are designed to control large volumes of traffic at very busy intersections or to reduce broadside crashes. When misused, they may cause drivers to speed up to "beat the light" and may increase crashes.
- Speed bumps are hazardous to all vehicles especially emergency vehicles, bicyclists, motorcyclists, school buses, and snow plows.
Q: Why wait until someone is seriously injured or killed before anything is done about speeding?
A: After a serious crash, speeding is often assumed to be the cause. This may not always be true. While crash experience is one of the factors considered in establishing speed limits, it is not the only one--or even the major one. The prevailing 85th percentile speed is the primary factor used to establish a proper speed limit, even if there have been no crashes.
Q: I am only one person among thousands of other drivers. What can I do to reduce the speeding problem in my neighborhood?
A: Speed limits are based upon studies of driving speeds - yours, your neighbors, and a percentage of everyone traveling on a roadway. Please obey the speed limit, not only on your street but on all streets and highways.
Q: Will increasing the speed limit make the road more dangerous?
A: Increasing speed limits does not decrease safety of the roadway. The more uniform the speeds of vehicles in a traffic stream, the less chance there is for conflict or crashes. It is recommended that speed limits be set to within 10 miles per hour of the 85th percentile speed. This information is consistent with recommendations and supporting data provided by the Wisconsin DOT, Minnesota DOT, Michigan DOT and Iowa DOT. Based on various studies by these agencies, it was determined that the majority of motorists did not increase their speed by 5-10 miles per hour when speed limits were raised, nor did they reduce their speed by 5-10 mph when speed limits were lowered.
Concerned citizens may think that increasing the speed limit would then increase the 85th percentile speed, thus needing a higher speed limit, resulting in a never-ending escalation of speeds. Numerous studies have been performed to prove this is not true. Various study results have shown little or no change in the 85th percentile speed, although some show a slight increase in the average speed. The increase of the average speed is due to the group of people who follow the posted limits increasing their speed to match the new limit.
In summary, the driver is responsible for traveling at a safe speed, based on the weather (rain, snow, high winds); visibility; traffic; roadway conditions; and at a speed which does not endanger the safety of persons or property.
Stop Signs -
Why don't they put in more stop signs?
A stop sign is one of our most valuable and effective control devices when used at the right place and under the right conditions. It is intended to help drivers and pedestrians at an intersection decide who has the right-of-way.
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a set of well-developed, federal and state recognized guidelines that help to indicate when such controls become necessary. These guidelines take into consideration, among other things, the probability of vehicles arriving at an intersection at the same time, the length of time traffic must wait to enter, traffic delays, and the availability of safe crossing opportunities.
Public understanding of the function of stop signs is one of the most critical elements in reducing speeding and traffic accidents. The following information explains the City of River Falls policy on intersection traffic controls and the correct use of stop signs:
Q: What is the purpose of a stop sign?
A: The stop sign is used to assign right of way at an intersection and to make sure that traffic flows smoothly and predictably.
Q: Will a stop sign reduce speeding in my neighborhood?
A: Because a stop sign is used to assign right of way at an intersection, it is not an effective means to control speeding. Research shows that where stop signs are installed as "deterrents" or"speed breakers," there are high incidences of intentional violations resulting in accidents.
When vehicles must stop, the speed reduction is only near the stop sign, and drivers tend to speed up between stop sign controlled intersections. When not required to stop by cross street traffic, only 5 to 20% of all drivers come to a complete stop, 40 to 60% will come to a rolling stop below 5 mph, and 20 to 40% will pass through at higher speeds. Signs placed on major and collector streets for the purpose of speed reduction are the most flagrantly violated.
Stop signs are are not warranted in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as an effective measure to reduce speeding.
Q: Will increasing the use of stop signs in my neighborhood, better control traffic?
A: As with any traffic control device, overuse of stop signs will cause many drivers to ignore them, creating a more hazardous situation, especially in low volume areas, such as residential neighborhoods.
Because a stop sign causes a substantial inconvenience to motorists, it should be used only where needed. Studies have shown that, sometimes, after installing a stop sign there is an increase in rear-end collisions. Also, the stop sign may cause such an inconvenience that traffic detours through residential streets, parking lots, etc.
A little known fact is that the"stop and go traffic" resulting from the placement of stop signs will increase carbon dioxide emissions, thereby further impacting the air quality in your area. There is a noticeable noise increase in the vicinity of an intersection from acceleration and braking. Additionally, deceleration, idling, and acceleration of vehicles increases fuel consumption.
Q: How can I get a stop sign on my street?
A: The City's Police, Engineering, and Public Works Departments evaluate an intersection, following State and Federal guidelines, to ensure uniformity in traffic control. The survey includes reviewing the following criteria outlined in the MUTCD:
- Vehicle and pedestrian volumes
- Traffic speeds
- Visibility (sight distance) at the intersection, i.e., trees, shrubbery, hills, and curves
- Accident history
Experience has shown that improving the intersection visibility by prohibiting parking near the intersection or removing other sight distance obstructions, is often more effective in reducing traffic accidents.
Q: What are the uses for multi-way and two-way stop signs?
A: Ordinarily, a multi-way stop sign should be used only where the volume of traffic is nearly equal on both intersecting roads. In situations where the volume is extremely heavy, a traffic light is more effective. Also, a multi-way stop sign is often used at an intersection where signals are urgently needed, but have not yet been installed. The multi-way sign can be installed quickly to control traffic while arrangements are being made for the signal installations.
Two-way stop control is used in areas where one street has a much higher traffic volume than the street it intersects. A two-way stop may be suitable under the following circumstances:
- Where one street is a major street
- Where sight distances approaching the intersection are substandard and traffic approaching under the general rules for uncontrolled intersections would run a strong risk of being involved in collisions
- Where a crash pattern exists that could be corrected by right-of-way controls, yet conditions do not require traffic on both streets to stop.
Storm Water Utility -
The City's Storm Water Utility fund provides funding for storm water infrastructure construction, re-construction and maintenance, as well as the water quality aspects of the City's storm water pollution prevention program.
Why is a Storm Water Utility Needed?
The creation of the Storm Water Utility gives the City a dedicated source of revenue which will adequately support storm water management. This funding previously came from property taxes. However, funding storm water programs by property taxes is inequitable because: 1) tax exempt properties generate storm water but would not contribute revenue toward storm water management; and 2) the assessed value of a parcel, which determines its property tax, is not proportional to the parcel's relative use of the City's storm water management system.
The storm water utility fee was put in place in 1998 thereby replacing the existing property tax based funding source with a utility fee that would allocate storm water costs to all properties, including tax-exempt properties.
How are fees determined?
The City determines fees for storm water service according to the gross size of a parcel (gross area of parcel, including both pervious and impervious areas). Commercial, industrial, institutional, and governmental customers will pay based upon estimates of each parcels impervious areas.
Whether or not the storm water runoff from your site travels through any storm water pipes prior to entering the river has no bearing upon the Storm Water Utility fee. In fact, untreated storm water runoff flowing directly into the river can be more detrimental to the river. In a piped system, there are opportunities for treatment at the end of the pipe prior to discharging to the river. The City is required, by the DNR, to remove 40% of the total suspended solids from the storm water runoff generated from all properties within the City limits. Runoff that flows directly to the river is contributing to the solids loading, but providing no opportunity for treatment.
In addition, the City has incurred, and will continue to incur, costs associated with storm water management of the River itself, such as stream bank stabilization, and removal of sedimentation deposits. We look upon storm water management as a regional issue for the entire City. In other words, some areas where it is more conducive to implement storm water management strategies, such as sedimentation and detention basins, can work to offset the negative impacts of lands where such facilities are less practical.
How are utility fees allocated?
The original storm water utility fees were collected to cover maintenance and replacement costs and storm water management needs identified in the City of River Falls Water Management Plan for the Kinnickinnic River and Its Tributaries dated April 20, 1995. At the time the original fees were developed, state and federal grants were available to help fund many types of projects. Theses grant funds were anticipated to remain in place; however grant opportunities have been significantly limited during the past few years and are generally not available for maintenance and replacement costs.
The utility fees now cover all of that plus funding for federal mandates that have just begun to affect the City in recent years. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II rules that affect smaller communities. Some of the new mandates required by these rule will require the City to implement practices such as:
- Public education and outreach programs on storm water impacts
- Establishing methods to detect and eliminate illicit discharges to the storm water system.
- Enforcing construction site storm water runoff control.
- Monitoring post-construction storm water management
- Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for municipal operations
- Identify measurable goals for control measures and measure results.
If you feel that there are unique characteristics to your property that cause the quantity and quality of runoff to be significantly different than the average produced by other properties of similar land use, you may appeal the charge you are paying. If you appeal, we will do a more extensive analysis of the quantity and quality of runoff from your particular site, and adjust your monthly rate accordingly up or down. Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Engineering Department.
The City is currently working on a credit system so that property owners who implement on-site storm water management practices like rain gardens, infiltration systems, rain barrels, and pervious alternatives to pavement can receive a credit on their storm water utility fees.
Contact Kristy Treichel at 715-426-3412 or email@example.com
The City's Storm Water Utility Ordinance can be found in section 13.24 of the City's municipal code.
Street Naming -
What's the difference between a Court and a Circle, or a Drive and a Road? Ever wonder how street names are chosen? Ever wanted to change the name of the street you live on? This will explain the City's policy regarding street naming and renaming.
Policy on Street Naming
- The City Engineering Department will review all subdivision plats for proper street naming. Street names shall be reviewed immediately prior to processing of the Final Plat.
- Variations of the same name with a different street designation shall be prohibited within the first word of the two (2)-word title or in the street extension (example: Pine Road, Pine Street, and Pine Lane).
- A street name may only be changed at a cross-street intersection. An exception may be granted or required to ensure address-numbering conformance.
- A name which is assigned to a street which is not constructed as a through street due to intervening land over which the street extension has been planned, may be continued for the separate portions of the planned through street.
- Two named streets per intersection is desirable. The maximum number of street names at one intersection shall be three (3).
- Street names shall be assigned such that no two (2) intersections would have the exact same combination of street names. The exception shall be a "Circle" type street designation which by definition begins and ends at intersections with the same street.
- Approval of street names on a preliminary plat will not reserve the street name, nor shall it be mandatory for the City to accept it at the time of final platting.
- A minimum number of letters is desirable in a street name. No street name shall consist of more than two (2) words nor exceed fourteen (14) letters, excluding prefixes (N, S, E, W) and type (St., Ave., Blvd.). Special exceptions may be approved by the City Council (example: Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.).
2) Name Selection
- Proposed names may be selected from a list of names maintained by the City Engineer (Appendix A). Suggestions for names to be added to the list may be submitted to the City Engineer.
- Streets may be named after people with the following criteria applied:
- Only a person's last name should be used as a street name unless additional identification is necessary to prevent duplication with an existing street name in the River Falls emergency services area. Special exceptions may be approved by the City Council (example: Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.).
- Names of living persons should be used only in exceptional circumstances to acknowledge significant social or political contributions made to the community 25 or more years prior.
- Street names should be avoided in accordance with the following criteria:
- Duplication of existing street names within the City of River Falls emergency response area by similar word spellings or sound shall not be permitted (example: Brier Lane and Brier Court, Beach Avenue and Peach Avenue, Apple Hill Road and Apple Road).
- Discriminatory or derogatory names, from the point of view of race, sex, color, creed, political affiliation or other social factors.
- There shall be no re-use of former/discontinued street names.
- Use of North, South, East and West as part of the street name other than as a prefix in accordance with 3 below.
- Names of living people except in accordance with 2.B.b. above.
- Streets directions/names break East-West at Main Street and North-south at Elm Street, or its closest alignment (i.e. Hazel Street), or an assumed extension of the dividing alignment.
- Streets that exist or may exist with the same name both north and south of Elm Street, or an assumed extension of the dividing alignment, shall be given a corresponding N or S prefix.
- Streets that exist or may exist with the same name both east and west of Main Street, or an assumed extension of the dividing alignment, shall be given a corresponding E or W prefix.
- Avenue (Ave): A roadway aligned in a east-west direction conforming to the appropriate address gridline.
- Boulevard (Blvd): A street with a divided pavement, either existing or planned, if the divided pavement ends, but the street continues, the same street name and suffix shall continue.
- Circle (Cir): A roadway containing a closed loop beginning and ending at intersections with the same street, or where the looped street closes onto itself, that is not interrupted by a through roadway.
- Court (Ct): A cul-de-sac of eight (8) lots or less that is not interrupted by a through roadway.
- Lane (Ln): A cul-de-sac of nine or more lots that is not interrupted by a through roadway.
- Drive (Dr): A curvilinear roadway of more than one thousand feet (1,000') in length
- Parkway (Pkwy): A special scenic route or park drive abutting a park, green way, or conservation area where zoning or topography would prohibit development on at least one side of the roadway.
- Place (Pl): A short curvilinear or diagonal roadway less than one thousand feet (1,000) in length.
- Road (Rd): A diagonal roadway more than one thousand feet (1,000') in length.
- Street (St): A roadway aligned in an north-south direction conforming to the appropriate address gridline.
- Renaming Streets by Public Request
- In cases where property owners request to change the name of a street which has an existing approved name, the property owners may petition the City. Property owner initiated requests under this section shall require seventy-five percent (75%) super majority approval of persons who own property that fronts on or is adjacent to the subject street. The petition shall be dated and have a current mailing address of all petitioners. A fee of $250.00 will be charged at the time of submission of a petition for street name change. Street names shall not be changed more frequently than once every five (5) years under this provision.
- City Initiated Renaming of Streets
- If just cause can be shown that a street name change would benefit the City from a public safety standpoint, or in other exceptional circumstances determined by the City Council, then the citizen initiated petition process may be waived and a city initiated street name change may be filed.
- The renaming of existing duplicated street names will be required in those cases where the general health and safety of the public is at risk (i.e., rapid property identification by emergency services). Where duplicate names exist, the street serving the largest number of improved properties shall retain its name, unless otherwise decided by the City Council. The other street(s) shall be renamed in accordance with this policy.
- Process for Renaming Streets
- Renaming of existing streets in accordance with the above provisions shall first be brought to the City Council where the request shall either be rejected or forwarded to the Plan Commission for further consideration.
- If forwarded by the City Council, Plan Commission shall make a recommendation to the City Council regarding renaming the subject street.
- A Public Hearing shall be held by the City Council prior to taking action to officially rename the subject street