EAST LIVERPOOL - A raccoon appears to perhaps fast tracked a planned traffic signal change throughout the downtown streets.
According to Ryan Estell, service-safety director for East Liverpool, the traffic lights at three intersections in the downtown that have been flashing yellow/red since a power outage on Sept. 22, soon will be taken down and replaced with stop signs.
It was determined that a raccoon got into an insulator at the AEP site on Second Street and "caused a flash and damaged some equipment." Customers lost power for about 5 hours that day.
This traffic signal at 5th and Jackson streets in downtown East Liverpool is scheduled for removal, and replaced by stop signs. (Photo by Jim Mackey)
The outage also caused a traffic signal control box to malfunction, according to Estell. He says to this point, city workers are not able to get the system to reset, so instead of paying an electrician to temporarily repair the lights, they will remain as is until time to take them down.
"It was something we have been planning already," he said, referring to discussion on the subject at previous City Council meetings. "When (the street department) is completed with the patching work (on city streets), we'll make time after that to take them down."
There are three intersections currently "flashing" - 5th Street at both Market and Jackson streets, and 4th Street at Market - as a result of the Sept. 22 outage. Those signals, as as well as the one at 5th and Washington, which is working properly, will be removed.
Dan Galeoti of the service-safety department was out marking locations Tuesday in anticipation of the new signage that will be erected once the signal removal takes place.
Estell said the Ohio Utility Protection Service first must be notified when such action occurs around utility or fiber optics lines. By reporting the proposed work, it allows those companies to check their records for line locations or they may do an actual physical inspection.
"Basically it's illegal to break the surface of the earth in Ohio without notifying them," Estell said. "There are certain restrictions as to distances you have to stay away from when digging."
In addition to the stop signs, the city also will place a "stop bar" (a broad white painted line) on each street prior to the intersection as a way of alerting motorists.
Estell said each location also will include pedestrian crossing signs.
Non-functioning signals at two intersections in the East End of the city - Pennsylvania Avenue at Dewey Avenue and Harvey Avenue at Putnam Street - as well as a signal north of the downtown - St. Clair Avenue at Park Boulevard - also are scheduled for removal.
"A lot of it is cleaning up old work," Estell explained, adding some of the non-functioning signals have been out for several years.
The director said the elimination of the aforementioned signals would leave eight functioning traffic signals under the city's responsibility.
"It's a cost-saving measure going forward," Estell explained. "Lights cost money. They use electric throughout the year, and bulb replacement takes place on a regular basis. It's our (the city's) way of saving money going forward."
Estell also said the downtown no longer has the traffic to necessitate a traffic signal at every intersection.
As per a questioned safety issue - the east-west side of the light is flashing yellow and the signal facing north-south is flashing red - Estell said the system "will not allow it" to be changed to flashing red in both directions.
Thus, he advised area motorist to be cautious, as usual, when entering an intersection.
"We simply can't get the pattern to change, and what's happening is some (motorists) aren't recognizing the different patterns," Estell said. "When it's blinking yellow, some are driving through, but it's supposed to be 'proceed with caution,' and that's not always happening. And then those with the blinking red are sometimes assuming others also have the blinking red and are making a brief stop and go. There's been no actual incidents, but we've received reports of several close calls."
In the spring, the city made the intersection at 5th and Broadway into a four-way stop with stop bars. The signs are posted high enough to be seen by traffic.
A passing truck, striking the traffic signal, partly led to the decision to take down that light. Following a repair to the signal, it was determined the accident also caused a short in the electrical lines, and every time those lines were affected - even by a brisk wind - the entire system again was knocked out.
"The safety of our drivers and citizens is an absolute concern to us in all our decisions," Estell has said.