"We Need Our Traffic Lights"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Thursday, December 15, 2011


MDOT apparently has a change of plans as reported in a story in the Huron Daily Tribune on Dec. 8.

William Mayhew, MDOT Cass City Transportation Service Center manager, is reported to have said MDOT is studying traffic lights in Huron County for removal. The intersections being studied include three in Bad Axe, one in Pigeon, one in Elkton and the only traffic signal in Port Austin.

Mr. Mayhew was quoted saying, “A number of the signals are in need of modernization.”

He went on to say; “Last fall, a number of traffic lights were evaluated... for traffic and pedestrian volumes.”

I cannot address each individual light. However, I can say, As I See It (and I did), the traffic counting equipment placed at Lake Street (M-53) and Spring Street (M-25) in Port Austin the end of September was poorly timed. There is very little traffic during that period. Mr. Mayhew’s comments regarding needed updates of the lights and crossing signals could not have applied to the four-way intersection in Port Austin. A completely modernized system, including signals that prompt when to walk for pedestrians, was recently installed. The system should be adequate for years to come and the dollars spent upgrading it should far exceed the cost of operation. During slow traffic times, the overhead light can be placed on a flasher, just as it has been in years past. The walk signals can easily be disabled until needed.

The completion of Port Austin’s harbor last summer relied heavily upon the traffic signal to ensure a safe flow for boaters using the ramp area and the large number of pedestrians headed to the waterfront. If MDOT was to consult with the waterway and state park commissions, it would realize the need to keep the traffic control system in place in Port Austin adjacent to the new harbor area.

After reading the Tribune article that quoted Mr. Mayhew’s interpretation of MDOT’s position about the cost of operation and maintenance of the signals, I had additional concerns.

I wondered if Port Austin had contributed to the cost of the upgrading of our new traffic signals. When I contacted two members of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in Port Austin, I was told yes, and both individuals were distressed over the recent placement of four very large stop signs. They expressed the signs were a distraction from the DDA’s beautification project.

Should the traffic light at the intersection of two main state highways be eliminated, I am sure accidents will occur and a very dangerous situation at an intersection used by tourists, summer residents, and local drivers and pedestrians will exist. I am certain they all contribute via their taxes to the operation of the traffic signals.

Regarding other traffic signals considered for elimination, the signal in Pigeon, just as the one in Port Austin, is located at a blind intersection and therefore presents a dangerous situation if removed. The proposed removal of the signal located at M-53 (N. Van Dyke) and Buschlen will present a hazardous condition in addition to a detriment to the adjacent businesses.

I witnessed two close encounters by drivers unsure of when to enter the intersection while waiting for my wife who was shopping in Walgreens. A business inventory of the adjacent area of the intersection reveals two banks, a drugstore, an auto parts store, and the main access to a major hotel and credit union. Bank employees expressed, “We want our light back!” In addition, Buschlen is the avenue providing the eastside by-pass around downtown Bad Axe.

Removal of other traffic lights along N. Van Dyke may be justified due to the relocation of businesses and diminished need.

I stated in a past column it is ridiculous to rely on stop signs because few drivers come to a complete stop when they encounter the octagon signs.

Savings by the state in operation of the signals mentioned could not possibly be great enough to merit the action planned. Perhaps removal of yellow flashing lights ON SECONDARY ROADS could be considered. Some of them have already been removed, but weren’t they placed there to help save lives?

One life saved most certainly is worth a thousand lights.

Postscript: I suggest if you would like your opinion on the above matter brought to the attention of elected officials, their names and addresses appear on the Opinion Page of the Huron Tribune and can be found in your local phone book.



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