Traffic maintenance: does it need to stop or go?

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By Madeline Sewell
Clinton County Chatter staff reporter

ST. JOHNS –– Road maintenance is an important public service, but for some it can be frustrating.

It can cause cause delays, traffic jams, and on occasion accidents. But without upkeep the public would be in danger.

According to The World Bank Transportation Notes, “poorly maintained roads constrain mobility, significantly raise vehicle operating costs, increase accident rates and their associated human and property costs.”

Performing routine upkeep on what you have is an important factor for many communities, including those in Clinton County.

According to Dan Armentrout, a Clinton County Road Commission employee, “when you look around the state now you see a lot of things that need to be done.”

“The goal of maintenance is to preserve the asset, not to upgrade it… maintenance must be done regularly,” said the Transportation Notes.

That can be difficult for communities that don’t have the funding.

“The big kicker is the funding source … a lot of departments don’t have the staff or money to make sure that everything is working how it should and that’s where you get a lot of your frustration,” said Armentrout.

“A lot of communities are not able to do the work that needs to be done at the appropriate times,” said Armentrout.

You can’t pave in the winter, but a lot of communities will start work when they have the money, regardless of the season, said Armentrout.

The recent construction on North Clinton Avenue in Downtown St. Johns is an example of general maintenance.

At the intersection of North Clinton Avenue and Michigan Highway 21 the traffic signals were simply out of date and needed to be replaced.

“All of the lights at that intersection are computer operated and every computer goes bad at some point,” said Armentrout.

Motorists of St. Johns driving though the recently updated intersection.

Motorists of St. Johns driving though the recently updated intersection.

Fortunately, the people of St. Johns didn’t seem to mind the construction.

According to Brett Harger, a resident of St. Johns, “it looked weird having two sets of lights up there, but other than that it didn’t cause any problems.”

“The most traffic that comes through [St. Johns] is from [Michigan Highway] 21 and [U.S. Route] 127,” said Harger.

“We’re not really a heavily traveled town outside of those locations,” Harger said.

For Dennis Cole, the problem wasn’t with the recent construction, but with the lack of traffic signals on the corner of North Lansing Street and Michigan Highway 21.

Location A: This is where the recent construction to update the traffic signals took place. Location B: This is where Dennis Cole suggested a traffic signal to be placed.

Location A: This is where the recent construction to update the traffic signals took place.
Location B: This is where Dennis Cole suggested a traffic signal to be placed.

“Just last Tuesday [Oct., 13, 2015] I saw a girl, she might have been texting at the same time, but she drove right across going north on [North] Lansing Street and she pulled right in front of a car that was going west on [Michigan Highway] 21,” said Cole.

“I think that a traffic signal could have prevented that,” said Cole. “I couldn’t believe that she didn’t get hit.”

Louella Kingsbury, another resident of St. Johns, disagreed.

“I think we have a good ration of traffic signals in St. Johns,” said Kingsbury.

“I can’t really think of any spots where I think, ‘gosh, I wish they had a light there,’” Kingsbury said. “In St. Johns I think they have it pretty well covered.”

Regardless of personal opinion, there are specific things you look for before putting a traffic signal up, said Armentrout.

According to Armentrout, “the traffic volume is a big thing that creates the need for a traffic signal.”

“If you have a boatload of people walking across the street, that would qualify the intersection for a traffic signal,” Armentrout said.

That intersection of Cole’s concern may not fill those requirements, said Armentrout.

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