By Noell Wolfgram Evans
The debate rages on over the safety of two Westside intersections once the traffic signals are finally removed. The concern centers around the intersections of South Westgate and Sullivant Avenues and Southampton and West Broad Street. The traffic signals at both intersections have been set to flash, indicating that change is coming, but Westside residents hold out hope that, what that change is, can still a topic of discussion.
Since the announcement was made in November 2016, residents have made it clear that they don’t approve of the removal of the signals. For their part, the city of Columbus contends that they are legally mandated to remove those lights on the basis of a 2014 traffic and pedestrian study. That study showed that neither intersection saw the minimum number of pedestrian or vehicular traffic needed each hour to warrant a traffic signal.
Some residents, led by Suzanne Martello, have questioned the validity of that study, citing several alleged inconsistencies in the data gathering, including its timing.
At the January meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission (GHAC), guest speaker, Columbus City councilman Michael Stinziano, was pressed on the decision. The councilman shared his belief that if the residents really felt like those lights were needed, they should stay. His vote in the matter, didn’t really count he said, but he promised to continue to work with the transportation department to find an acceptable solution.
The GHAC Public Safety Commission also met in January and, as expected, the traffic signals were on the agenda. The commission sees their removal as a threat to public safety, and they drafted a letter which will carry their concerns to the city.
That letter cites as their chief concerns the safety implications for pedestrians and vehicles, the lack of accessibility for handicap residents who would need to travel to cross at a light, and the concern for COTA and it’s riders, with a Park N’ Ride so close to the Southampton and West Broad Street intersection.
While the removal of both lights are of concern, the Westgate and Sullivant Avenue signal has drawn the most attention. This is because of its close proximity to, and use by, students at Bishop Ready High School, St. Mary Magdalene School, and Westgate Alternative Elementary.
The intersection is also a high pedestrian area for those attending the Westgate Community Center.
Betty Jaynes, president of the Westgate Neighbors Association, believes that the city could look at a compromise such as removing the lights, but also adjusting some of the lane options at those intersections and work with area businesses to ensure that drivers have a clear line of sight.
“We have asked the city to review both intersections as we believe removing them would put local residents at risk,” said Jaynes. “Traffic on both West Broad and Sullivant is often above the posted speed limit. We believe the safety of both drivers and pedestrians attempting to navigate these intersections is more than simple traffic counts and numbers.”