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Editorial: Reduce number of First Avenue traffic lights

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Jamestown needs to prepare for growth. That includes improving traffic flows on First Avenue by reducing the number of traffic lights and updating any lights the City Council should decide to retain.

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First Avenue north of the 10th Street intersection currently has six traffic lights. A recent study by Midwest Traffic Consulting found that none of the lights should exist under federal guidelines.

City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf said two should be retained. We agree with this approach. The traffic light at Third Street South, next to Alfred Dickey Library, sees a lot of pedestrian traffic including students headed to the Jamestown Middle School, one block east of the intersection. The intersection at Fourth Street North serves as the connecting point between N.D. Highway 20 and U.S. Highway 281 and carries some truck traffic.

These lights contribute to the public's safety and convenience when traveling on First Avenue.

We agree with the study that the rest of the traffic signals should be eliminated. Fewer traffic lights could mean a smoother traffic flow through downtown and might reduce the number of accidents on First Avenue.

Bob Shannon, an engineer with KLJ Engineering working on the Land Use and Transportation Plan, said traffic signals increase rear-end collisions while reducing intersection accidents.

Another important aspect of this proposed change is an upgrade to any remaining traffic signals.

The current equipment is old and outdated and does not include features -- such as pedestrian push buttons and emergency vehicle preemption -- that would make the streets safer for pedestrians and vehicles.

The pedestrian push buttons allow those wishing to walk across a street to push a button and change the light for crossing. The emergency vehicle preemption allows specially equipped vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks and police cars to turn lights green in emergency situations.

The same improvements should be implemented on the traffic signals on 10th Street to improve safety in that part of town.

These improvements would bring all these intersections up to current safety standards.

The recent study identifies problems and solutions as they exist today. Unless there are indications to the contrary in the Land Use and Transportation Plan currently being developed, it makes sense to make those changes as soon as reasonably possible.

Jamestown is poised for growth. Making the community safer and helping it travel more efficiently should be one of the highest priorities in preparing for that growth.

(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper's editorial board)

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