Photo by George Lauby
Lights at Chestnut and Bailey, May 20
Photo by Darla Golden
Bagging the lights, July 25
Representatives of downtown merchants urged the city council Tuesday to leave at least one set of traffic lights on Fourth St.
The lights were removed from service in late May, and covered with black bags on July 25, steps preliminary to their removal.
The lights, which have hung above the Fourth St. intersection of Bailey and Chestnut for decades, are no longer warranted by the amount of traffic on Fourth St., the city’s contracted engineer Tom Werblow said, because U.S. Highway 30 no longer runs down Fourth St., instead bypassing downtown and connecting with Rodeo Road.
The city council agreed May 20 that the lights could be taken out of service. Stop signs were erected at Bailey and Chestnut and for the next two months, the lights flashed yellow on Fourth St., then covered.
Removal of the lights was recommended in March 2013 by the consulting firm, Schemmer Architects of Lincoln, who studied traffic patterns throughout the city.
Werblow said he’s only had two objections to removing the lights, but several in favor.
But Mike Honerman, Alan Hirschfeld and Chris Chada of the downtown business association compared the street to a drag strip.
They said the street would be safer if at least one set of lights were active, and be more accommodating to customers of such stores as Hot Tub Pros, Sherwin Williams Paints and Husker Radio.
The said most of the parking for the Hot Tub Pros and Husker Radio is across Fourth St.
Matt Junker, the new owner of Hot Tub Pros, said his customers, wife and children sometimes have to run across Fourth St. to miss traffic now that the lights are bagged. He said it’s not possible for elderly customers to do that.
Honerman told the council that traffic has sped up since the lights were bagged, often traveling 15 miles an hour above the 25 mph speed limit.
He said removing the lights on Jeffers St. a year ago almost created a “drag strip for trucks” on the west side of downtown, and now the situation is similar on Fourth.
Crossing the street is especially hazardous during the busy hours of 7-8 a.m., noon hour and 4-5 p.m.
Hirschfeld said one downtown worker to him she goes home via the Bailey St. intersection, and cannot turn left onto Fourth because the taffic is too heavy. He urged council members to see the situation for themselves.
“This is a substantial thing,” he said.
Junker said the cost will be high if the lights need to be reinstalled in the future.
But Werblow said the lights are old now, with parts made in Brazil, and need to be modernized if they remain, which will cost about $16,000 per intersection.
Councilmen Brook Baker and Tim Barrett said the situation needs to be looked at carefully.
The council took no action. They are expected to consider a resolution at the next meeting in two weeks.