Flashing lights spark opposition in London

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(Posted July 23, 2015)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Feedback is flowing freely when it comes to flashing lights in London.

For the past two weeks, the traffic lights on High Street at Union and Oak streets have been set to continuously flash yellow. They will return to their normal stop-and-go sequence on July 28, at which time the lights on High Street at Walnut Street and Madison Road will go to yellow flashers until Aug. 11.

Steve Hume, London’s safety-service director, said the yellow flashers are an experiment prompted by a traffic safety study performed last year by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

ODOT conducted the study as part of preparations for repaving a section of High Street in 2017-18. Based on the study, they recommended that the city remove the lights on High at Walnut Street, Union Street, Oak Street and Madison Road.

The light removal is not required. City council will make the final decision on whether or not to remove any lights. The general consensus of council is to leave the lights as they are, said council President Patrick Closser.

Many residents feel the same way. Several have voiced their opinion through letters, social media and comments shared at recent council meetings.

Rachel Jones, deputy registrar for the Madison County License Bureau on North Oak Street, wrote that customers have complained about difficulty getting in and out of the offices as well as crossing High Street as a pedestrian.

Resident Julianne Phillips wrote that High Street will become “less safe and pleasant” for drivers and pedestrians if the lights are removed.

At council’s July 15 meeting, resident Angela Costantino-Mason said light removal would be “dangerous” and suggested instead that the timing of the lights be adjusted to improve traffic flow. She also asked why the city was experimenting with flashers if council members oppose the suggested changes.

Hume said the experts at ODOT based their recommendations on safety concerns, so the city should at least test the idea. He acknowledged that change can be scary.

“The idea here is, let’s try it in several different phases. We might find out that some of the lights aren’t as important as we thought,” he said.

Councilman Rex Castle praised Hume for going forward with the experiment in the face of backlash. He said he knows the flashing lights are disrupting residents’ routines. “But keep in mind, it’s a temporary thing and we’ll get through it,” he said.

Hume said that once the second phase of the experiment is complete on Aug. 11, the city might experiment with having all four lights flash yellow at the same time—Walnut, Union, Oak and Madison.

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