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October 18, 2017 10:53:42 AM
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Traffic signals at four intersections in Columbus are coming down, while three other intersections will see signals installed.
City councilmen on Tuesday unanimously approved a traffic signal improvement plan during its regular meeting at the Municipal Complex after City Engineer Kevin Stafford, with the Neel-Schaffer firm, presented his findings from a study of 22 traffic-signaled intersections in Columbus. It was the city's first such study since 2006-07, Stafford said.
Columbus Light and Water maintains traffic signals in the city. Stafford said the study focused on adding signals at intersections with higher volume traffic patterns and removing them where traffic volume was too low to merit a light.
Signals will come down at Seventh Street and Second Avenue North; Bell Avenue and 25th Street South (Martin Luther King Drive); College Street and Sixth Street South; and College Street and 15th Street South. The city will convert these four intersections to all-way stops.
"We'll probably have those lights flashing red (today) just to start getting people used to stopping there," Stafford said after the meeting. "Then after the city puts in the stop signs, (CLW will) remove the lights."
CLW will reuse removed signals at Highway 12/Military Road and Ridge Road, as well as the Gardner Boulevard and Highway 50 intersection. The plan also calls for installing a traffic signal at Bluecutt Road and Leigh Drive, which Stafford said will require design work and purchasing new equipment.
At nine other intersections, Stafford said, CLW will modify the timings for the traffic lights.
The council budgeted $100,000 for the upgrades in this fiscal year's budget, and Stafford said that amount should cover the work.
Mayor Robert Smith said enacting the plan will save the city money over time for energy use and maintenance, and it should also provide a safer, easier driving experience for motorists.
"We've been meeting with Kevin about this for a while, and I think everybody, including the councilmen, are satisfied with this plan," he said.
Stafford noted MDOT is studying how to improve traffic flow, parking and pedestrian access at seven downtown intersections -- from the Highway 82 Main Street exit to Sixth Street -- and that study should be complete in about six months.
Anyone with questions or concerns about traffic signal maintenance should call CLW at 662-243-7440.
In other business, the council voted 5-1 to change the city employee holiday schedule for 2018, opting for employees to work on Confederate Memorial Day in April and take off on Columbus Day in October.
The city began observing Confederate Memorial Day as a paid holiday when the state recognized it in 2015. However, offices at other entities, such as Lowndes County and the U.S. Postal Service, remained open on that day but closed on Columbus Day. City Human Resources Manager Pat Mitchell said the switch would simply align the city with those entities.
Charlie Box, councilman for Ward 3, opposed the switch.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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