Archived Story

Editorial: Albert Lea ought to form committee on street names

Published 9:49am Monday, December 16, 2013

We hope our city leaders this coming year see the wisdom in forming a committee to examine renaming some of Albert Lea’s streets to make them safer for emergencies and easier to navigate on a daily basis.

We have two naming suggestions:

• At the bend in the road near Dairy Queen, South Broadway instantly turns into Southeast Broadway. To motorists, it’s the same street. However, it’s actually a new one. For them to stay on the actual South Broadway, they must take a turn to the west, cross the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, then follow the roadway as it curves southward past the Albert Lea Township Hall.

This creates a South Broadway and a Southeast Broadway, which is confusing for getting around. It causes confusion for pizza delivery, package delivery, visiting a home or business or even for first responders on occasion. One day, it’s going to be something serious.

The part of South Broadway that goes past the township hall needs a new name. Besides, it’s not as “broad” as the rest of Broadway. Perhaps Township Hall Road or Iowa Avenue might be fitting.

• People generally consider Highway 13 to run north from Graceland Cemetery toward Interstate 90, but technically it also goes to downtown Albert Lea along West Main Street. Saying a location is on Highway 13 has multiple meanings.

What’s more, it’s confusing that U.S. Highway 69 occupies the same north-south roadway heading south from Graceland. With road numbers going all over the place, why not give this major north-south route on the west side of the city its own street name to cover the entire route?

Perhaps Western Drive or Graceland Boulevard might do the trick.

Cities the size of Albert Lea and larger every 20 or 30 years convene a committee to look at their streets. Such committees typically consider what is best for emergencies, how the city wishes to appear to visitors and how can transportation be more convenient.

After all, what is the point of having streets and roads? To get around, of course. Bad signage and poorly named routes get in the way of that goal.

Such street-naming committees do away with routes that change names, seem too similar to other names, lack clarity or don’t fit with the city naming plan, such as when a country road gets annexed. Sometimes, it’s about branding. For instance, some cities with universities use the street-changing committee to get a University Avenue, which helps students and parents find the university. Simple, huh?

Such committees typically have a mix of representatives from fire, police, ambulance, dispatch, engineering, city administration, business and a few from the general populace. We imagine a representative from the Vitality Center could be a voice for pedestrians and bicyclists. A new resident, someone with fresh eyes, also is valuable.

These sort of committees typically don’t go hog wild. Normally, they find a few trouble spots, perhaps as few as three or as much as a dozen, and recommend changes to a city council, which has the final say. Any committee could consider the two locations suggested in this editorial and comb the city for other trouble spots.

Forming the committee would cost the city nothing but a few hours on six or seven afternoons in 2014. If changes are approved, the city would install the new signs the following year.

It is our understanding that Albert Lea has never formed a committee of this type to review its street names. Forming one surely would be a good “sign” of progress, and it might save a life someday.