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City may green light traffic plans

Comments sought on possible removal of signals, stop signs

WARREN — The city is looking at removing 21 electronic traffic signals and changing 63 four-way stop signs at various corners to two-way stop signs.

Councilman Greg Greathouse, D-3rd Ward, streets committee chairman, is calling for a committee meeting to be held at 5 p.m. Thursday in council chambers, enabling residents to give their thoughts about the project.

Councilmen Ken Macpherson, D-5th, and Ron White, D-7th, asked Greathouse to have a public meeting to make sure all of their questions, and those of residents, are addressed.

Greathouse questioned the need for another public meeting, because the mayor’s office had a traffic commission hearing, the 3rd Ward had a meeting and there was an informational meeting.

“I think (Warren City Engineer) Paul Makosky and the consultants for the project have done wonderful jobs in explaining the project,” Greathouse said. “However, because of the request of my fellow councilmen, we will have a committee meeting.”

White said he has concerns about several lights and stop signs on the removal or change list.

“I’ve had residents approach me,” White said. “They are concerned that removing stop signs will increase speeding through the neighborhoods, making some areas less safe.”

White said some residents want to be heard.

“They want to get their understanding of what is happening and get the information in person,” he said. “If we call a meeting and they don’t show up, then we (council) can move forward.”

White said some residents may not have felt comfortable going to meetings over the last several months because of the pandemic.

FEDERAL GRANT

The review of traffic control devices is part of a $1.6 million federal grant the city received from Eastgate Council of Governments. The study of the stop signs, conducted in conjunction with the electronic devices study, was sought and paid for by the city.

Released in June, the study by Burgess and Niple indicated the number of vehicles traveling in the city has been declining, no longer justifying the number of stop signs and traffic lights.

The company examined 61 intersections with electronic signals.

As a result of a similar study conducted in 2003, 27 signals were removed, three new ones were added, 18 were reconstructed and the remaining signals received equipment upgrades, including new controllers, improved vehicle detectors, fiber-optic interconnect and emergency vehicle pre-emption.

This year’s study will work to improve traffic flow by removing unneeded traffic signals and upgrading the remaining signals.

The determination of whether a corner needs an electronic signal is based on Ohio’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has standards that must be achieved. Among these are: traffic volume in four-, eight- and peak-hour periods; pedestrian volume; whether there is a school crossing; coordination of signals; crashes; and whether there is a near-grade crossing.

Makosky received 49 comments from residents during meetings and through emails primarily questioning the removal of stop signs and traffic lights from various locations around the city. Another 17 comments were made about the proposed changes from social media posts.

CONCERNS VOICED

Many comments complained the removals would lead to increased speeding in the neighborhoods. Makosky attempted to respond to each of the questions.

City resident Paul Yannucci, for example, worries the removal of traffic lights on Elm Road and Genessee will make areas already known for speeding even worse.

“Traffic signals and stop signs are not used to control vehicular speeds,” Makosky responded. “Controlling vehicular speeds is an enforcement task that should be overseen by the police department.”

Assistant fire Chief Chuck Eggleston, in a June email, questioned the removal of a traffic signal on South Street at Pine Avenue, stating it is important to be able to get fire trucks in and out of the fire station

“The project will explore the installation of a fire signal, which can be activated to stop traffic to allow for the safe and efficient exit from the fire station in an emergency,” Makosky wrote.

Prior to removing traffic signals, the city likely will place them in yellow flash mode on the main streets and flashing red on the side streets to determine the effects of the change. Monitoring could include field observations and a review of crash reports.

“If the city decides not to follow the recommendations in the electronic traffic signal study, it could be made to repay the grant or it may affect future grants the city applies to obtain,” Makosky said.

On streets that have four-way stop signs, the study has determined that unwarranted stop signs at major street approaches will be removed, and only side street traffic will be required to stop.

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