City clarifies stance on Fells Point lights
After a city official said Monday that changes had been made to the traffic signals in Fells Point to restore the automatic "walk" signs at several intersections, neighborhood residents quickly rose it to say it wasn't so.
It turns out they were right. And some thought they had been deceived.
"If the city has decided against a response to the community's concerns, they can at least provide a condescending, 'we studied the issue and decided to not change the timing' response as opposed to -- I'm sorry to be so blunt -- a lie," one resident wrote.
But Jamie Kendrick, the city's deputy transportation director, has an explanation: He misspoke.
Kendrick said the city did make a quick change to the signals after Fells Pointers complained last week that changes to the pedestrian signals at several intersections had made crossing more hazardous for pedestrians. After a trip to Fells Point and a tour, Kendrick agreed to make changes almost immediately.
But the immediate changes did not include a restoration of automatic walk signals at each corner, as Kendrick had mistakenly indicated. He said that what he should have said -- and what the city had promised -- was that it would restore the automatic "all red" second during which vehicle traffic is halted in all directions. That, he said, was accomplished last Monday.
The automatic walk signals will come back too, he said, but not as quickly and only after study of the individual intersections. He explained that the city might want to program some so that the signals are automatic only at certain busy times of day.
"Four in the morning? Should we have automatic walk when there are no pedestrians," Kendrick said. (Actually, he originally said 2 a.m. but amended that after it was pointed out that 2 a.m. is when the bars let out in tavern-intensive Fells Point.)
One change residents requested but that the city rejected was the removal of the push buttons that control some signals. Kendrick said the city thinks that's going too far. For one thing, he said, the buttons can give some pedestrians a quicker walk signal than they would otherwise have. And even if it doesn't, it doesn't cost them time, he said.
Kendrick said keeping the buttons is also a matter of following the rules.
"The State Highway Administration (which provides most of our funding for these projects) now requires an Accessible Pedestrian Signal to be placed at each signal that is rehabilitated or reconstructed. This is consistent with the requirements of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. We must comply with this requirement," Kendrick wrote.
According to Kendrick, the city transportation department in many cases is receiving requests from neighborhoods to install such buttons.
"We are willing to work with the group to identify time of day, day of week and time of year restrictions, but it is not in the best interest of the City to remove the push buttons altogether," he said.
The intersections that have gone to the all-red period are: Eastern Avenue and Wolfe, Ann and Washington streets; Fleet Street and Wolfe, Ann, Washington, and Gough and Wolfe streets.