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Covington to turn Square traffic lights off to help traffic

The city of Covington is going to try something new in order to help alleviate traffic going through the Covington Square.

Turn the traffic lights off.

Well, at least for up to a month.

City Manager Leigh Anne Knight informed the city council of the proposed experiment during Monday’s meeting.

The idea is to turn off the traffic lights on the intersections of Floyd and Pace streets and Washington and Monticello streets. The lights would flash red to those entering the Square, and be dark for those leaving. Effectively, that would make for stop signs at each of the Square’s four corners.

“Traffic is becoming more and more of an issue in the area,” Knight said. “Basically we’re looking at making the entrances onto the Square as stops with a stop sign.”

The proposal was made after discussions involving Knight, Covington’s transportation manager, city engineer and city planner. Randy Vinson, city planner, studied other town squares around the country, and Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon travelled to two nearby squares, similar to Covington’s, and recognized that they did not have traffic lights at any of their entrances.

“When you look at the Square,” Bouchillon said, “traffic does seem to stack up at the lights, and on the other two corners it doesn’t.”

Knight said the traffic builds up, particularly, during the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the lunch rush comes through for dining establishments such as Amici’s, Bradley’s, Mystic Grill, Plain Nuts, Town House Café and Your Pie. The Irish Bred pub is slated to open in April, surely adding more traffic to the downtown area.

Turning all four corners into stop signs is believed to limit the backup of traffic of vehicles both attempting to leave the Square and enter it.

Knight said they would like to advertise the traffic lights being turned off a month before it happens to make sure residents are aware of the change. Following that period, the lights are scheduled to be off for a month, depending on how successful the experiment is.

“We’ll be monitoring it on a daily basis to see how it is going,” Knight said. “If traffic doesn’t flow, we’ll immediately flip the switch on the traffic light.”

Officers from the Covington Police Department will be standing by during the trial, to assist motorists if needed.

As of Monday night the expected date the experiment is to start is May 2.