Proposed traffic light removal worries neighbors

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Parents are worried about the safety of students walking to school and a nearby recreational center, now that a traffic signal is set to be removed in the Westgate neighborhood.

“I’ve seen so many people almost get hit now,” said concerned neighbor George Cook. “You’ve got little kids walking through here, that’s going to be a concern when football season starts up for these little leagues.”

Another concerned neighbor Suzanne Martello said about a month ago the traffic signal at the intersection of S. Westgate and Sullivant Avenues turned into flashing yellow and red lights. There are signs there that read: “Traffic signal to be removed”.

“It’s just a terrible, terrible safety problem,” she said. “Without a red light, it’s really difficult to cross this street. It’s busy traffic.”

The intersection is near Westgate Elementary, Westgate Community Recreational Center, as well as Bishop Ready High School.

Martello said it’s an area heavily utilized by students going to school or the rec center, new teen drivers and people getting on and off at the bus-stop. She said her son almost got hit by a car trying to cross the four-lane thoroughfare on one of the first days the lights began to flash.

“He waited until there was a gap in traffic, walked as fast as he could and barely got across the street,” she said.

The City of Columbus replied with this statement:

Federal regulations require the city to remove this signal because of the low vehicular and pedestrian traffic at this intersection.

The Federal Highway Administration has detailed guidelines for the conditions under which a traffic signal can be maintained or installed at an intersection. The Ohio Department of Transportation applies those guidelines to traffic signals throughout the state to determine whether a new traffic signal is needed or whether an existing traffic signal is unsafe.

Extensive outreach was done about the transitioning of this traffic signal including that to leaders of area community organizations. In the process of our outreach, the city has heard some concerns about this situation. The city continues to look at other options to ensure the continued safety of this intersection. Again, while traffic and pedestrian conditions at this intersection no longer allow the city  to keep this traffic light, the city is committed to seeing that there will be no reduction in safety as a result of the traffic signal being transitioned out.

You can get more information on the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices at the FHA’s Web site.

Martello is also worried about handicap accessibility and the difficulty of trying to cross the street without a signal. She said nearby intersections with crossing signals are not convenient, blocks away in either direction.

The city said it will continue to study the area for the next 60 or so days, while also looking at other options.

“Any study at this point is absolutely flawed because I have told my children not to cross here,” said Martello. “I know other people have told their children not to cross here. I avoid the light myself.”

She still worries someone might get hurt.

“I just feel like the residents of the west side are really not being taken care of,” said Martello.

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