The skinny on traffic lights

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Marshall Tribune reader recently asked about the traffic control lights on North Second Avenue and elsewhere in Lewisburg. The inquiry came just as local motorists and city officials have been telling the state they want a traffic light at the intersection of Rock Crusher Road and North Ellington Parkway.

Why are those two lights there on Second Avenue when it's so obvious that a traffic control signal is needed south of Rock Crusher Road and north of Fifth Avenue North? It's a miserable intersection. Lives are at stake and, clearly, nobody wants to wait until a fatality occurs before installing some sort of traffic control.

Can't they just move those signals from Second Avenue to the parkway?

Actually, no.

One of the two Second Avenue lights is at Water Street, near the Chamber of Commerce office.

The Fire Department's main station is just down Water Street. When the fire alarm sounds, all the traffic lights at 2nd and Water turn red to protect firefighters and their trucks.

The other traffic light is at College Street, which does not directly cross Second Avenue. It sort of zigzags there.

Furthermore, Second Avenue is a state route and so the lights were apparently approved by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Asked about the prospect of shifting the two Second Avenue lights to flashing signals so one would serve as a stop sign and the other a caution signal, Police Chief Chuck Forbis' reaction was, in effect, if it's not broken, don't fix it.

If traffic signals aren't causing cars and trucks to stack at the lights then, he asked, why change? There's not that great a delay.

And the city's new police chief said he's not noticed an aspect of traffic signals or roadways here that seem unusual. He is in his first month, but it's a small town and patrolling the streets doesn't take too long.

Meanwhile, the city manager offers a few more points about the parkway's intersection at Rock Crusher Road.

"At some point that section of the bypass should be widened," Fuller said.

TDOT has advised, "If we spend our money it will be wasted," he said. "But we need it now.

"I wish the state would let us move the lights" from Second Avenue. "We've had the traffic engineer down here two, three times, but they say there's not enough traffic" on the parkway.

The state has estimated it would cost $100,000 for the signals and related work for a control system at Rock Crusher Road. Fuller said he thinks that estimate is high. The city, he added, is willing to pay. He predicted that if a public hearing was held on the light, attendance would be greater than what turned out to fight the landfill.

That was nearly 1,000 people, or a little less than a tenth of the town's population.

Uhh, it could happen.