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Traffic Commission discusses pedestrian safety

90-day study explores removal of traffic signals

In September, the city of Marietta began studying two intersections to consider removing the three-color traffic lights. The intersections remain under study until Dec. 16. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Approximately one month into a 90-day traffic signal removal study, the safety of pedestrians crossing a lower west side dividing line was brought before Marietta Traffic Commission this week.

Franklin Street is one of the two thoroughfares through the city under review, for this particular study at its intersection with Market Street.

The other thoroughfare rests on the eastern side of the Muskingum River — Second Street, at Scammel between Whit’s Frozen Custard, Sterling Service Store and two catty-corner parking lots.

Both signals have switched, since mid-September, to flashing yellow for the thoroughfares of Second and Franklin traffic and flashing red for crossers on Scammel and Market respectively.

What’s being studied

In September, the city of Marietta began studying two intersections to consider removing the three-color traffic lights. The intersections remain under study until Dec. 16. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Nine warrants, as defined by the “Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices” for whether each of the two signals are justified by traffic counts within 8-hour and 4-hour periods, during peak times, due to pedestrian crossing traffic, due to proximity to neighboring traffic signals, and to crashes.

What’s not quantified, according to the template spreadsheet available through the Ohio Department of Transportation, are near-misses at an intersection, how many times a vehicle doesn’t head the traffic signal, or why pedestrians may avoid crossing at that intersection.

Commission discussion

Lower west side community organizers CJ Smith and Jackson Patterson addressed the mayoral-appointed volunteer advisory commission Monday to emphasize the inclusion of pedestrian safety as the top priority between Virginia and Putnam on Franklin Street and between Virginia and Putnam on Gilman Avenue.

Smith presented a summary of the work of more than 30 Fourth Ward residents who met when the study began to conduct their own, citizen-driven, walking surveys of intersections in the lower west side neighborhood and discuss:

Jackson Patterson, left, addresses Marietta Traffic Commission on Monday concerning pedestrian safety crossing Franklin Street not only at Market but also at Putnam and Maple streets. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

1. Where is it scary to walk or dangerous to cross the street?

2. Where is it too dark to see at night?

3. What is the thing you would be most excited to show an out-of-town visitor about your own neighborhood?

4. What or where would you be most ashamed to show them?

In addition to that Sept. 21, meeting by neighborhood residents, Smith then conducted further research with neighbors immediately impacted by the intersection of Franklin and Market, she explained.

That residential group, led by Patterson, Smith and Washington County Health Department’s Sherry Ellem, discussed then how it would address in the 2021 funding planning for the Creating Healthy Communities Coalition, pedestrian infrastructure including options like painted crosswalks, planters at intersections to increase visibility and ADA-accessible sidewalk ramps which not only benefit individuals utilizing a wheelchair or walker, but also the blind, those pushing strollers and those who hope to maintain their own mobile independence a while longer.

Smith then noted that she conducted an additional survey after residents considered the potential that a change to Market and Franklin could mitigate safety concerns already existing with a tricolor signal.

That second survey netted a consensus, she said, from neighbors living a half-block in diameter from the intersection agreeing:

1. That the four-way stop signs eliminate excessive delay.

2. That the four-way stop signs do not appear to have greater obedience than the tricolor traffic signal, but motorists appear more cautious.

3. That the four-way stop signs do not appear to decrease inappropriate use of the route to avoid traffic signals.

4. That the four-way stop does not appear to increase pedestrian wait-time from times experience with the tricolor signal.

The group asked that the commission instead consider a four-way flashing red at the intersection, rather than complete removal of the tricolor stoplight.

“A lot of people don’t have cars. We built our society around people having vehicles instead of people walking,” advised Ellem before the close of the meeting. “And we need to come back to … that opportunity to be able to walk to a grocery store, walk to our neighbor’s house and not feel threatened. So anything that we can do for a neighborhood (that) wants to be together and visit each other I think we need to come around and support that as people who can make decisions.”

According to the city website, the traffic commission is scheduled to meet on the second Monday of each month, though the website reports the second-floor conference room of 304 Putnam St., while Monday’s meeting was held in the third-floor conference room.

What’s next:

1. The city engineering office will continue to collect citizen input concerning the potential removal of traffic signals at the two following intersections until Dec. 16:

• Market and Franklin streets.

• Scammel and Second streets.

2. Citizen input submitted via email to mariettatraffic@teceng.com will be reviewed by Marietta Traffic Commission in addition to the engineering report on the two intersections produced by TEC engineering.

3. Marietta Traffic Commission will determine whether to keep the traffic signals tricolor, or adjust to flashing or removal of the signals.

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