Ferguson residents say traffic light removal endangers kids

MODOT says that at $200,000 a pop, getting a new signal light just isn't worth it.

According to the people who live in the area, a busy intersection in Ferguson is about to get a lot more dangerous. Residents who spoke with 5 On Your Side say a Missouri Department of Transportation plan to remove a traffic light on the corner of North Florissant Road and Powell Avenue is a disaster waiting to happen.

"It sounds like the Indianapolis 500," said TC, a longtime Ferguson resident who asked us not to use his name.

TC isn't talking about a racetrack, but the street right outside his home — North Florissant Road.

"I've seen children get hit. I saw a little boy get dragged under a car on this very block on a bicycle trying to cross the street," said TC.

TC and other residents claim that safety officials are about to make their area even more dangerous.

How?

By removing a traffic light located at the corner of Powell Avenue and N Florissant Road.

"There's a grade school right there. You can hear the school bells ring," said Rita Julia, a longtime Ferguson resident.

Julia admits the light can be annoying, but says it's needed because Johnson Wabash Elementary, Lee Hamilton Elementary, Walnut Grove Elementary and Ferguson Middle School are nearby.

"If the light is not there, they will not stop at that intersection. And coming around that 45-degree bend will not allow them enough time to react to a child coming across the street," said TC.

So why remove the light at all?

"There just isn't enough traffic to warrant a stop light," said Lee Hillner, project manager with MoDOT.

Hillner says the light's time is over.

"It was installed in the early '70s. Condition is just very worn out," said Hillner.

And Hillner says that at $200,000 a pop, getting a new signal light just isn't worth it.

According to a MoDOT traffic study, 14,000 cars passed through the intersection daily, In an area with four nearby schools and a lot of foot traffic.

When asked how many accidents had occurred in or around the intersection, Hillner said it wasn't a significant number.

"I don't remember specifically," said Hillner.

But what Hillner didn't remember 5 On Your Side dug up.

From 2008 to 2014, 10 car crashes happened at or near the intersection. But since then, things have sped up, adding eight additional car crashes to the tally.

And Hillner admits: "They do speed. We looked at that."

Which brings us back to the beginning: some unhappy residents.

"I've seen people run that light plenty of times," said Julia.

But it's not just regular folk who are upset. While talking with residents near the intersection, the mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles, called 5 On Your Side to say he did not support the removal of the stoplight and neither did his city council. But he says that ultimately, they had to defer to MoDOT's recommendations.

"I think it's a very sound situation. I believe when it's done, folks will be happy with this," said Hillner.

MoDOT plans to replace the signal light with a pedestrian crosswalk a little further down the block.

5 On Your Side learned it has a particular advantage over getting a new signal traffic light.

It's cheaper.

"It will cost about half price…half it would to rebuild this signal. Typical [traffic] light like this would be over $200,000. [Cross walk] will be about $100,000," said Hillner.

The hybrid crosswalk is a newer model that has only been installed in one other location: Dielman Road and Page Avenue.

"$100,000 versus saving somebody? They're not going to stop if it's just a button. And who knows, it might be a kid in the street," said Julia.

A spokesman for the Ferguson-Florissant School District says many of their student are bussed, so their principals had no objections to the traffic light being taken down.

MoDOT tells 5 On Your Side its plan is to have the light taken down and replaced with the crosswalk by late fall.

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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