The City of Covington has been testing four-way stop intersections at the Pace/Usher Streets and Floyd/Elm Streets intersections and will continue the testing for one more week to see if the traffic lights are necessary.
Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said when there is a power outage and the lights at those intersections turn into flashing red lights, instead of working stop lights, the intersections work as four-ways. The city wants to see if removing the stop lights will cut down on the bottle-necking on the downtown square.
“We’ve removed those (traffic lights) around the square, and for the most part we believe that we’ve had pretty good results from those,” City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said. “I did actually roll up today and there was traffic backed up and it was all because of the traffic light at Elm and Floyd.”
Bouchillon said the traffic test would be different than what was done with the lights on the square.
“We’re not just going to go up there and put bags on the lights,” he said. “We want to be able to get the police department up there at different times of the day. We probably won’t do both Pace Street and Floyd Street at the same time.”
Bouchillon will work with the Covington Police Department (CPD) to see how the intersections work without the lights. The intersections currently have turn lanes, which raises a concern for turning it into a four-way stop. He said if the four-way intersection becomes a reality, the lanes of the road could be changed to add more parking around the square instead of the turn lanes.
Bouchillon credited the current traffic on the square to the influx of businesses and events happening downtown, not the removal of the traffic lights that were previously on the square.
“I firmly believe that if the traffic lights were still up there that that place would stay bottle-necked,” he said.
Councilman Chris Smith said he was concerned that people would “blow through” the intersection if it was just a four-way stop.
Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said the two-week period is basically a “test drive” to see if the lights can be removed. She said the goal is to make it easier for visitors to get downtown.
“The objective is not to keep people off the square, but if you’re using the square as a means to get from the north side to the south side, maybe you ought to think about an alternative way of getting there,” Knight said. “Because that does tend to bottle-neck it more when you’re just using it for through-traffic.
“The objective is for those people who want to go downtown, we want to make it easy for them to go downtown and we want to make it easy for everybody to get around town too. If you’re not going downtown to shop or eat or whatever, take an alternate route around the square.”
The city initially requested a 30-day period to test the intersections, but that testing period was knocked down to two weeks and approved by the council. The two-week period would allow the city to provide the council an update at its next meeting March 20.
Bouchillon said the city has not done an official traffic study or had a traffic engineer inspect the two intersections.
In other news, the city also approved a year-long road closure of Hunter Street for the construction of the courthouse addition. The closure will run from March 6, 2017 to March 6, 2018. Once the road closure has expired, the city will consider changing Hunter Street from a one-way into a two-way street.