Friday, March 19, 2010
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City gives traffic signal the green light

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[March 19, 2010]  It has been exactly one month since the issue of placing a traffic signal at the corner of Fifth and College was introduced to the Lincoln City Council.

At the Tuesday night voting session, with one seat vacant and Alderwoman Stacy Bacon absent for the evening, the motion to approve a traffic signal was approved by a 5-3 vote.

Prior to the motion, three Lincoln residents who live in the vicinity of the proposed light spoke to the council, asking once again that the motion for the light be denied.

Michelle Vermeire, who first spoke out against the light at the council's Feb. 1 meeting, came back this week with new reasons why the light was not going to benefit the community.

Vermeire lives in the 500 block of North College, which is actually closer to the Woodlawn intersection than the Fifth Street one.

She said that even though she is not right on the corner, she has seen the effects of that traffic light in and around her home.

Vermeire commented on the effect the changing of the light from green to red and back to green will have as it shines through homeowners' windows at night.

In addition she noted that at the intersection the noise levels would increase as vehicles with loud mufflers, revving engines, squeaking brakes and loud sound systems would come to a halt and sit in front of the homes for the period of time the lights are red.

She also noted that homeowners in that area will come to have issues with privacy as their outdoor space is invaded by stopped traffic, as well as being exposed to more carbon monoxide due to emissions as the cars sit waiting their turn to move on.

Finally Vermeire posed a question to the council: "Where will they go next?" She said that many people travel Fifth Street because there is no stop. What street will they move to, and can that street handle the traffic?

Chuck Conzo was the next person to speak. Conzo lives at the intersection in question and is very much opposed to the traffic signal going in there.

He said that he agreed completely with everything Vermeire had to say and added that there would be additional unintended consequences of putting the light there.

He noted that as he had campaigned this winter for the position of county treasurer, he had visited a lot of homes and that especially in the Third Street area, traffic flow had been discussed.

He reported that residents in that area are seeing increases in traffic even now, and that with a light on Fifth, it could be that Third would be the street that would be the answer to "Where do they go next?"

He wondered, "What can you do then? You don't want to put a traffic light on Third Street."

In addition Conzo brought to mind the noise level of semi braking systems. He said that semis use what is called a Jake brake, which is very loud, and some cities have had to address that issue as well.

Greg Coughlin also returned to follow up on comments he had made at the meeting two weeks prior.

He said he really wanted to know why the light was going in at this intersection. He wondered whether this was one person's idea, or if a group had come to City Hall and asked for this. He answered his own question by saying, "I really don't think so."

When the guests had finished speaking, Snyder led the council into the passing of the resolutions.

City attorney Bill Bates had written four resolutions, which were passed one at a time.

The first three passed unanimously with votes of 8-0. Those resolutions approved the resurfacing of Fifth Street from Evans to Keokuk at no cost to the city, the resurfacing of parking lanes along that route with the city bearing a portion of the cost, and upgrades to the traffic signal at Woodlawn and College with the city bearing a portion of the cost.

The fourth and final resolution pertained to the signal at Fifth and College. Alderwoman Marty Neitzel made the motion to approve, and it was seconded by Alderman Jeff Hoinacki.

During discussion Neitzel said: "The people who have come to me have said, ‘Please, Marty, vote for the light.' I am an elected official; I am out there to do what they ask me to do. I will vote for it."

Alderwoman Melody Anderson said that she is still holding to the belief that approving this light will actually cause problems rather than solve them.

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Alderwoman Joni Tibbs asked for an explanation of the timing of the light, and city engineer Mark Mathon responded.

In the mornings, if there is a constant stream of traffic on College, the light will switch on a 60-second cycle. The Fifth Street traffic will be allowed 30 seconds of green; then the green will go to the College Street artery for 22 seconds.

In the afternoon and evening hours the timing ratio will change slightly, allowing Fifth Street travelers 33 seconds of green light at a time.

The timing cycles apply only when there is traffic on College. When no traffic is present, the light will stay green on Fifth.

Alderwoman Kathy Horn asked about the maintenance and electric costs for the light, and Mathon said that under the Illinois Department of Transportation's standard agreement, the city will bear 50 percent of those costs.

Tracy Jackson, city street and alley superintendent, added a comment that right now 400 vehicles a day are moving to Fourth and Sixth Street, to avoid Fifth Street traffic, even without the light.

Alderman David Wilmert said that in all honesty the calls he had received in the end came out that there was a slight majority in favor of the light. He said that even so, he was going to oppose it.

He defended his position by saying: "It is a mistake to do so fiscally, it is short-sighted, and you've heard some of the reasoning here tonight. I'm going to risk the 55-45 split on this issue because it is the right thing to do."

Additional discussion on the subject included whether or not the signal would be better if there could be a turn lane involved, but Mathon said that on the east and west route there was no place for a turn lane, and it would possibly not be that effective to add a turn lane on College such as what is in place on Woodlawn at Union.

Wilmert asked again if the council could slow down on this decision. "Just because someone is throwing money at it doesn't make it the right thing to do," he said. "Ultimately we should think this through and apply some logic to it. We're going to own this for a long time. I mean we can't take it out with less than an act of God, and we're going to have to maintain it."

Tibbs, who has been out of town on a planned leave through most of the discussions on the traffic signal, said that even so, she had her laptop with her, plus her cell phone, and she did hear from her constituents on the matter. She would vote in favor of the light because that is what her constituents want.

Snyder led the discussion to a close, inviting one more trip around the room for comments. When no one responded, the motion went to vote.

The roll call vote went as follows: Hoinacki -- yes; Neitzel -- yes; Armbrust -- yes; Wilmert -- no; Anderson -- no, Horn -- no; Tibbs -- yes; and Busby -- yes.

With a 5-3 vote in favor of, Snyder will sign the letter of intent to IDOT, and this summer a traffic control device will become a part of the Fifth Street landscape.


Past published articles related to the Fifth Street traffic signal

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