Some city residents are unhappy with the traffic changes to two intersections in downtown London.
Three letters protesting the changes were read aloud during Thursday’s London City Council meeting, and one resident spoke to council in-person on the topic.
The city has begun experimenting with removing four traffic lights on High Street, following the recommendation of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
On Tuesday, the lights on High Street at the intersections of Union and Oak streets went to a flashing yellow light, while the signal facing the side streets went to a red flashing light.
The authors of the letters — Tom Cox, Rachel Jones and Julianne Phillips — all cited safety as an issue, as did Angela Constantino Mason, who spoke to council.
Mason, who lives on South Oak Street, said turning left at the intersection of High and Oak is dangerous, especially with cars parked on the street blocking the driver’s view.
She suggested re-timing the lights to alleviate congestion in downtown, or installing pressure-activated signals.
A recent ODOT traffic safety study showed lights at the High Street intersections of Walnut, Union and Oak streets, as well as Madison Road, are no longer necessary. Only traffic patterns at High and Main streets warranted a signal light, the study revealed.
Steve Hume, the city’s safety-services director, said the city will not know if the change will be helpful unless it is tried. When asked by Mason why he is initiating the changes, Hume called the individuals conducting the ODOT study “a hell of a lot smarter than I am.”
“Everybody’s scared of change,” Hume added.
Beginning July 28, the city will perform the same two-week experiment at the intersections of Madison and Walnut. The lights at Oak and Union will revert to normal operation during that period.
The signal at Main and High will never undergo change, Hume noted.
Factors that contribute to whether a light is needed include traffic on the main road, traffic on the side street, the amount of pedestrians and the number of turns, among others, according to the ODOT study.
Councilman Rex Castle said he has witnessed several near-crashes. He commended Hume for “at least trying,” noting that people are “creatures of habit.”
“If [the experiment] deems a change won’t help us, there will be no changes,” he said.
Ultimately, council will vote as to whether any lights will be removed.
In other business:
• Donna Smith, who lives on Deger Drive, complained to council about the vacant property at 38 Deger Drive. She said the back yard has not been mowed for three years, and the high grass and trash has attracted rats, raccoon, moles and skunks to the property.
Additionally, the front door is broken and squatters have taken up residence. The property, owned by Huntington Bank, was sold at a sheriff’s auction earlier this month. Hume said he wold look into the situation.
• Councilman Dick Minner introduced legislation to suspend the city’s sign ordinance. The issue came up after Minner learned the city’s board of zoning told the owner of Cappy’s Pizza that the former Rothwell’s sign could not be re-used.
In a letter read aloud by council president Patrick Closser, law director Zahid Siddiqi said he felt the ordinance was “not a valid exercise” of council’s “legislative authority.” Additionally, Siddiqi suggested Minner abstain from the vote, should it be voted upon. After some apparent confusion, council members agreed not to vote on the issue.
• A public hearing will be held Sept. 3 to vacate an alley between KFC and the London Food Mart, as well as an alley on Miller Avenue.
• Closser announced Thunderfoot Karate and the Madison County Genealogical Society are the newest tenants at the London Community Center.
• Castle said he spoke with an individual from Ohio Treasurer of State’s office about Ohio Checkbook, a free website that makes government data available to the public. Castle called it “something we should look into.” The topic will be further discussed at Monday’s finance committee meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in council chambers.
Reach Andrea McKinney at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619, and on Twitter @AndeeWrites.
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