Traffic may be flowing easier, but pedestrians report having trouble crossing the street at the new four-way stops in downtown Buckhannon.
Buckhannon City Council members discussed some of the complaints and compliments that they've received about the new traffic patterns at Thursday's council meeting.
"People that are physically challenged are having some difficulty in regard to crossing the street," Councilman J. David Thomas said. "People that are physically challenged want to keep their independence. I think it's something that the city needs to take a serious look at."
Thomas said he's very concerned about it, but is uncertain as to what should be done. People who have guide dogs and are having trouble need to come to City Council or write a letter, Thomas said, adding that of all the negative comments he received, this was what concerned him most.
"I think there's an overall lack of sensitivity with a lot of people that, if you have a cane or a guide dog, people are impatient. They just don't pay as much attention," Thomas said. "I think the traffic flow is better for people in the car, but it's not better for people that are relying on guide dogs and other means. I'm worried that somebody may get hit."
Carrie Card, a communications specialist for the West Virginia Department of Highways, told The Inter-Mountain in an email that the City of Buckhannon requested a DOH review to determine the possibility of removing traffic signals at three intersections. Two temporarily were converted to all-way stops for a six-month trial period.
The monitoring will take place during that period before a final decision is made. Both the city and the DOH will review the data collected.
"I think the idea is to make traffic flow more efficient, particularly during low traffic times, instead of sitting at the traffic light waiting for it to turn green when no other traffic's around," Buckhannon Police Chief Matthew Gregory said.
The Department of Highway's review determined that a third four-way stop, the intersection of Main and Kanawha streets, would not be considered, but the Spring and Florida street intersections with Main Street would be.
"I don't think it's going to be the best solution for what we have downtown, and I really hope we don't wait six months to decide to either keep it or get rid of it," Councilwoman Pam Cuppari said. "All I've heard is negative. What I hear is 'Why do you have to fix something that's not broken?'"
However, Councilman Scott Preston said he's heard more positive comments than negative.
"I really have not heard any severe negative comments other than 'How come they did that?'" Preston said, adding that traffic has eased since the four-way stop conversion of those intersections.
There has been only one motor vehicle accident since the intersections became four-way stops, officials said.
"I would just ask people to be patient, both if you're on foot and in your car, and to be observant when you enter an intersection, because people are learning something new," Preston said.
Councilman Ron Pugh said he didn't receive any positive comments, but he did want to "stress what is positive about (the all-way stops). I have an easier time getting up and down Main Street."
Pugh said he has heard negative comments regarding the Florida Street intersection, mainly because of the turning lane, which some drivers have found confusing.
The change isn't permanent yet. The DOH proposed that instead of removing traffic signals outright, the signals could be placed on "red flash" and their operation could be monitored, according to Card. The traffic signal function could easily be returned to normal if the idea doesn't meet expectations.
"I would refer those people who have difficulty crossing the street to our esteemed police department which has won the AAA Platinum Award for going on almost a decade based on vehicular and pedestrian safety," Preston said. "It's like brushing your teeth, folks. You just have to learn a new way to do it."