City officials consider whether to remove traffic signalsResidents near signals protest removal

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 9, 2002

[09/07/02]City officials said they are likely to leave a traffic signal at Cherry and Chambers streets after meeting Friday with engineers who had recommended seven signals be removed to improve traffic flow.

Vicksburg’s mayor and aldermen also said they want to leave the signal at Clay and Monroe streets and will study alternatives to removing the signal at Drummond and Speed streets. Mayor Laurence Leyens said his office has received calls from residents along Chambers and Drummond streets concerned that removing those signals will create hazards in the mostly residential areas.

“Traffic flow affects the quality of life in those areas, and we would like to slow the traffic down,” Leyens said.

In January, Neel-Schaffer Inc. of Jackson was hired to study Vicksburg’s major thoroughfares and find ways to improve traffic flow in the city. The $107,000 study identified $1.6 million in short-term improvements, including the removal of seven traffic signals and another $2 million in long-term improvements.

While most of the signals recommended for removal brought no public comment, the ones at Cherry and Chambers and Drummond and Speed started neighborhood petitions to save the signals.

“Our primary concern is about safety along Drummond Street,” said Mac Fulghum, Drummond Street resident and president-elect of the Fostoria Homeowners Association.

“There are a lot of families with children who walk along the sidewalks and cross the street along Drummond,” he said.

Engineers with Neel-Schaffer had recommended removing that signal based on counts that indicated there is not enough traffic to require the signal. While car counts along Speed Street are not high enough to warrant the signal, residents have said they are concerned about speeding motorists along Drummond Street.

Vicksburg police also say speeding in the area is a problem and that removing the signal will increase the problem.

“Drummond Street became a condemned street when they opened the high school,” said Deputy Police Chief Richard O’Bannon. “It became a thoroughfare to the school.”

Vicksburg High School is at the south end of Drummond, about a mile from the intersection with Speed.

City officials have looked at replacing the signal with a four-way stop to slow motorists or installing on-demand sensors along Speed Street so the light changes only when vehicles are present.

The next signal heading south, at Drummond and Bowmar Avenue, is also set to be replaced with a four-way stop. Jonathan Kiser, transportation engineer with Neel-Schaffer, said that while the stop signs can slow traffic down at some intersections, they can also have a negative effect where there is little traffic.

“You actually develop a pattern of non-compliance by installing stop signs that aren’t needed,” Kiser said.

At Cherry and Chambers streets, city officials were also bombarded with citizens concerned that removing the signal will create a safety hazard to motorists making turns. Leyens said the city will scratch plans to pull that signal, but will look at ways to improve that intersection.

“There are a lot of elderly people who come from Chambers Street and we want to be sensitive to things the engineers may not have taken into account,” he said.

Officials also said they will leave the signal at Clay and Monroe streets where engineers recommended the heavily landscaped median be removed. Signals at Cherry and Crawford streets, Clay and Walnut streets and Washington and Lucy Bryson streets were also recommended to be removed.

Other recommendations in the report include installing tether cables on traffic signals, installing overhead street signs and replacing traffic signal lights with LED lights.

Plans are to move forward with most of those improvements before year’s end. Most of the funding will be through the federal Surface Transportation Program with $186,000 being from taxpayers.

The study included Clay, Washington, Drummond and Cherry streets, Halls Ferry Road and Mission 66.