Photo by George Lauby
Traffic lights at Chestnut & Fourth. Bailey is in the distance.
The traffic lights at Fourth and Bailey will remain in place, but lights above Fourth and Chestnut will go away, following action Tuesday by the North Platte City Council.
Mayor Dwight Livingston had to cast the deciding vote. The council split 4-4 on a motion to leave one set of lights, with Tim Barrett, Brook Baker, Glenn Petersen and Larry Campbell voting yes.
Differences of opinions became apparent during the discussion before the vote. Three council members said they visited the area in the last two weeks, when the removal of both sets of lights was first discussed.
At that meeting, representatives of downtown businesses told the council they had concerns about speeding, pedestrian safety and losing customers if the lights were gone. They loosely compared the situation to having a drag strip past downtown.
But City Engineer Tom Werblow told the council Tuesday that he’d looked again at the number of vehicles and pedestrians there, and they are so low that neither traffic light is warranted, according to both city and national standards. Werblow also found 80 percent of the vehicles on the street travel 28 miles an hour or less.
“We propose removal,” Werblow said. “Traffic has decreased with the moving of U.S. Highway 30 to Rodeo Road. Fourth is still a significant corridor for downtown visitors and St. Pat’s church, but we feel the flow of traffic is better without the lights. I personally think it’s easier to get around without fighting the signals.”
Councilman Andrew Lee said he'd been there twice during noon hours. He said it was hard for pedestrians to get across the street because when the traffic clears from one direction, it comes from the other way. He asked Werblow to see if the lights are timed at Dewey and at Poplar, so traffic from each direction clears the street at about the same time. Werblow said that could be done.
Councilman Jim Carman said he drove down Fourth St. from Jeffers and hit the green light at Poplar, so the lights seemed well-timed in that way. He said both sets of lights could go, but the crosswalks certainly need better paint.
“You can hardly see them,” Carman said.
He also noted that pedestrians have the right-of-way in crossings, so motor traffic slows or stops when needed, but the crossings need to be clearly marked.
Werblow said that's a problem, because "the stuff that made paint stick to pavement has been taken out" of paint, but he said thermoplastic that might be used. Thermoplastic – made from plastic and heated to adhere to asphalt -- is being used to stripe recently replaced asphalt on Rodeo Road, he said.
Barrett said signs would help. He said signs are everywhere in Colorado stating that pedestrians have the right of way.
Werblow said someone recently suggested that more speed limit signs be posted in residential areas, and the question becomes -- where to stop posting signs? However, he said it could be done.
Lee suggested the council table the matter until Werblow looked at the timing of lights at Jeffers, Dewey and Poplar to benefit pedestrians.
However, Barrett moved to keep the lights at Bailey and remove them at Chestnut.
City Attorney Doug Stack suggested a different wording and Barrett withdrew his motion. Then Baker re-worded the motion to satisfy Stack.
After the 4-4 vote, Livingston voted yes without comment.