Mast arm traffic signals lose support

  • Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Leslie Cantu/Journal Scene -- The mast-arm style traffic signal next to Town Hall. --

Love them or hate them -- and several town council members do appear to hate them – mast-arm style traffic signals keep coming up for votes.
The latest vote was at Monday’s finance committee meeting, when council voted 6-1 to table further spending until the budget workshop in August, when council can develop a plan for installing the mast arms.
Mayor Bill Collins was the sole vote against tabling.
The town does have a plan the staff has been following, but it’s based on decisions made by council in 2008, and several members of the current council don’t like the plan.
Monday, Town Engineer Russ Cornette requested approval of $14,000 for engineering services for mast arms at Holiday Drive and North Main Street.
The request triggered a discussion of whether the engineering could be done in-house and whether the mast arms, if approved, should be installed beginning in downtown Summerville and proceeding north, or beginning at the interstate and proceeding south.
The plan is to install one per year, so it would be several years before every intersection with a traffic signal has the mast arms.
There is already a mast arm installed at the intersection of Richardson Avenue and Main Street, next to Town Hall.
Last July, council approved spending up to $177,000 on mast arm traffic signals at the Berlin G. Myers Parkway and North Main Street, but that intersection project is on hold because the Sheep Island extension from the interstate to Main Street will change the configuration of the intersection.
Thus, town staff moved this year’s project to the Holiday Drive intersection.
Cornette said most of the engineering has already been done – the town has already spent about $40,000 on engineering for four intersections – but the Holiday Drive intersection has changed since the engineering study was done.
The Cracker Barrel, for instance, wasn’t there when the preliminary engineering was done.
But Councilman Walter Bailey said the town would end up “dumping a fortune” into mast arms if it must do engineering for every traffic signal intersection between the intersection and downtown.
There are better uses for hospitality tax money, he said.
Further, he said, there’s so much clutter in the commercial districts anyway that the mast arms aren’t going to enhance the looks of the area.
Councilman Bob Jackson agreed that if the mast arms are going to be installed, they should be started downtown for greater visual impact.
Councilman Bill McIntosh, who’s voted against spending money on mast arms in the past, noted that council has already voted in favor of mast arms and budgeted money for them.
“It’s going to look pretty ridiculous if you don’t finish North Main Street,” he said.
Councilwoman Kima Garten-Schmidt was the only one to stand up for the mast arms.
“I believe it’s visually nicer to look at than the wires hanging,” she said.

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