City decides signal is no-go at SHHS intersection

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The city’s Traffic Safety Committee will review further information in November, but for now, it decided that observation and enforcement efforts will be used to deal with safety issues at the intersection of 15th and Long streets.

The committee met on Sept. 16 to consider a request from School District 55 for a stop light or some other way to help move traffic and students safely through the intersection before high school starts, lunch and after school. School Board member John Fassler raised the concern at this month’s School Board meeting.

“It’s the usual situation that happens every September,” said Joe Graybill, city senior engineering technician. “Some (students) wait for traffic to recognize their presence and stop. Some don’t.”

A signal costs $75,000 for each side of the intersection, about $300,000 total, he said. “It’s pretty expensive. The city doesn’t have anywhere near the money for that type of work.”

The bottom line right now is “everyone needs to be careful,” Graybill said. The intersection has plenty of sight distance on every approach. Also, he suggested, someone in the School District should be educating the students about the intersection.

The high school lets out more than 800 students at lunch time, Police Chief Bob Burford said, and they want to get to Speedee Mart, Dairy Queen and other providers of fast food.

“This problem hasn’t increased, but it hasn’t decreased,” Burford said. Students walk across the street in groups, and before the first group is across, the next one starts, sometimes forcing drivers to wait even longer before continuing.

Some won’t give the drivers the courtesy, Burford said.

The law gives right-of-way to pedestrians and traffic depending on circumstances, he said. Students cannot just step in front of a moving vehicle and force the driver to slam on the brakes, and pedestrians cannot simply cross in between intersections in a manner that forces drivers to stop and wait. Drivers must stop and allow pedestrians to cross the street at crosswalks.

Burford said Student Resource Officer John Trahan videotaped the intersections at 15th and Long and also 15th and Main on Monday.

He found many students jaywalking, Burford said, and probably 200 students crossed Main Street against the signal, so installing a light would likely not ensure compliance.

Trahan will work with the department’s traffic officers, and they’ll probably issue citations for flagrant violations, Burford said. Enforcement is probably the best approach.

“I don’t think mechanical control devices are the way to go,” Burford said.

His department will continue to monitor the situation, he said, and he hopes to have a better picture of how big a problem is there. He will return to the committee in November to present his findings.