Better traffic flow

Promoting better traffic flow through the Pioneer City is the idea behind a series of recommendations from the Marietta Traffic Commission to improve traffic signal operations.

“For some time people have contacted the commission, asking why one signal stops traffic too long, or why another is too short, so the commission just decided to look at everything,” said Mike Scales, current traffic commission chairman.

Beginning last fall the commission members looked at 27 of the city’s signalized intersections and develop recommendations to improve traffic flow at each crossroad, then in December the commission presented those recommendations to the city administration, Scales said.

Josh Schlicher, currently serving as city council president, was chairman of the traffic commission when the recommendations were forwarded to the administration.

“I originally brought the issue to the traffic commission out of pure frustration from driving through town in traffic that was stop-and-go, stop-and-go,” he said.

“There was no efficient traffic movement.”

Schlicher said it took about six months of discussion among the traffic commission members to develop the list of signals that could be improved.

“There was no formal study done, we just used common sense and observations from the traffic commission,” he said.

“By November we finally had a list put together and sent it to the city administration in December, before I left th commission.”

The recommendations included permanently (after a six-month trial period) switching signals at four intersections to “flash mode,” with a yellow flashing “slow-down” signal allowing traffic to pass along the through-street, and a red flashing “stop” signal on the cross street.

Those four signalized intersections include Franklin and Market streets, with Franklin becoming the through street;

Second and Scammel streets, with Second Street being the through street; Third and Scammel streets with Third Street as the through street; and Fifth and Washington streets, where Washington would be the through street.

Evan Chichester, owner of the Sterling Service Store on the corner of Second and Scammel streets, said it would make sense to allow traffic on Second Street to pass through the intersection while vehicles crossing Second from Scammel Street would have to stop.

“I think that could probably be made permanent,” he said. “Most of the traffic is traveling on Second Street in this area.”

In addition, Second Street resident Nick Finkel said the signal at Second and Washington streets should be adjusted to better accommodate traffic passing through that intersection.

“They need to time that light better in the evenings,” he said. “After 6 p.m. there’s no reason that Second Street traffic should have to wait several minutes to get through that signal. When I go to work I use Front Street just to avoid the light at Second and Washington streets.”

But Doug and Karen Thompson, owners of Bestone Computer Sales and Service on the corner of Fifth and Washington streets, believe the signal at that intersection should not be changed to a permanent flash mode.

“This signal should be left the way it is,” Karen said.

“Tons of kids walk through this intersection on their way to and from school. Drivers sometimes don’t seem to them, or else they just don’t care as they speed through the intersection.”

She said a crossing guard was once almost struck by a vehicle while helping children cross through the intersection.

“We have a major concern about people running the red light here,” Doug added. “And we’ve often called the police about it.”

He said Bestone has installed a traffic camera that’s trained on the intersection, and by visiting the website anyone can montraffic passing through the traffic signal.

Schlicher said while he understands the concern for children from Washington Elementary School crossing the intersection, after some discussion the traffic commission believes the signal should be completely removed and stop signs placed on Fifth Street to allow better traffic flow on Washington Street.

“There should be no traffic signal light at that location,” he said. “The light cannot be controlled because it was built with 1960s technology. Also there is n pedestrian crossing signal at that intersection.”

Schlicher noted there were no state standards at the time that required a certain number of vehicles to pass throug an intersection before a traffic light could be warranted.

“They apparently just put it up as a four-way traffic light because they thought it was needed at that time,” he said.

Setting that light and the other three signalized intersections on flash mode for a six-month period would enable the traffic commission and city administration to determine if any problems were liable to crop up due to the proposed signal changes, Schlicher said.

He added that if there are no problems the city could leave those signals permanently on flash mode, or remove them as unnecessary for traffic control in the future.

Scales said the traffic commission is currently waiting for feedback on the proposed signal changes from the city administration. He expects the commission members will have the administration’s reply soon and the issue will be discussed further during the traffic commission’s next meeting tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m. on March 13.