New traffic rule at Pearl Street intersection
By Scott Bellile
Motorists passing through the south side of downtown New London will need to obey a new traffic rule.
The Waupaca County Highway Department changed a rule last week so people turning right from Beacon Avenue (which is also County Highway D) onto Pearl Street must now stop at the stop sign. This is the east stop sign in front of the Marly’s Restaurant parking lot.
“Our department removed the small accessory sign beneath the westbound Beacon Avenue stop sign that said ‘Right turn no stop’ and replaced it with ‘Traffic from right does not stop,’” Waupaca County Highway Commissioner Casey Beyersdorf told the Press Star in an email. “Our goal is to give the northbound stopped South Pearl Street traffic and East bound East Beacon Avenue traffic more of an opportunity to have a right to enter this busy intersection.”
Beyersdorf said the change was made in response to a concerned New London resident. Under the previous rule, it was possible for northbound motorists stopped on Pearl Street to be unaware that the westbound traffic did not stop if turning right.
Right-turn-no-stops are discouraged by the Federal Highway Administration, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Traffic Engineering, Operations and Safety Manual.
The DOT utilizes right-turn-no-stops “very sparingly after exhausting all other traffic control strategies.”
The DOT instead recommends having a traffic island separate the right lane from the other lanes and then placing a yield sign at the right turn lane instead of a stop sign. This setup can be found at both stoplight intersections on North Water Street.
New London Public Services Director Chad Hoerth said federal highway standards discourage right-turn-no-stops because there is no adequate language to tell people at the intersection’s other stop signs that traffic coming from the direction in question “may or may not stop” depending on which lane the vehicle is in.
After the city of New London posted the notice of the change on Beacon Avenue on Facebook, comments were mostly negative, from people responding it is a ploy for the police department to write more tickets (New London Police Department actually had no say in the decision) to saying a roundabout would be a better solution.
No other changes have been made at the intersection. It remains a three-stop sign, four-way intersection, with no stop for southbound traffic on Pearl Street.
New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter said he was alerted of the county’s change with the rest of city staff on Friday, March 1. Police have not yet observed whether safety is improving as a result of the new rule.
“It’s one of those changes the Waupaca County Highway Department made that people are going to have to get used to because it’s the new rule of the road out there,” Schlueter said.
“Time will tell if it’s going to help or not,” he added. “We’ll be out there keeping an eye on it. We’ll be enforcing it and making sure people stop at it.”
Schlueter said he does not know whether the intersection has historically had a higher number of crashes than others due to the right-turn-no-stop rule.
He has heard a few citizens talk of near-misses, but he added those could occur at any intersection.
Beyersdorf said the change “will definitely take a while for everyday users to get used to” but he hopes it reduces near-misses and prevents accidents.
Just down the road, Beacon Avenue has another right-turn-no-stop at the west stop sign in front of Beacon Street Deli.
The rules have not changed at this intersection. Such a decision would have to be made by the Outagamie County Highway Department.