The stupid downtown stoplight, revisited (yet again)

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

Let me write my 91st column on that stupid downtown stoplight, and hope that somebody actually pays attention this time.

Alright, it’s not actually my 91st column, but I’m getting close – and I have to say that there’s no way I’m the only person who has a serious problem with the traffic signal downtown that serves to impede traffic in all directions and cause myriad headaches for people who work and do business downtown.

I know this well. I live and work on Main Street at the corner of Main and Church at the top of the hill overlooking the core of Downtown Waynesboro, and I can tell you about the steady stream of traffic that uses Church and Spring Lane right outside my back-corner office as a cut-through to avoid the light basically all day and night. And let me just say, nothing quite interrupts, say, a live interview, not to mention an otherwise peaceful night’s slumber, like the sound of a big rig belching while trying to maneuver a tight corner that my Geo Metro has trouble making sometimes.

I know that the city has tried to take some corrective measures in recent weeks. The most noticeable one involved the installation of two traffic cameras at the intersection that are supposed to make the signaling sensitive cycle through a little quicker and take away from the insanely-long waits that drivers often have to face sometimes with not one car actually sitting at the corner of Main and Wayne moving for 60 to 90 seconds or more.

Problem is, they don’t seem to be working as planned. I’ve sat at all four corners of the intersection for just as long as before the lights were installed without anything moving at the corner there, and been reduced to wondering what we can do next to get things back to the way they used to be.

Ah, the way things used to be. That was before the downtown-streetscape plan that included those bumpouts at the corner of Main and Wayne that took away our turning lanes on Main. The loss of those turning lanes means that the lights now have to cycle through four times instead of what was before effectively two or two and a half – to let eastbound traffic on Main move first, then westbound traffic on Main, then northbound traffic on Wayne, then southbound traffic on Wayne that can proceed while northbound traffic can still travel straight through on Wayne.

Throw in the pedestrian signals at all four corners, and it should be no surprise that traffic is not infrequently backed up the hill on Main all the way to the front door of my office at the top of the hill, and I’ve even seen it past the Main-Church intersection in front of Main Street United Methodist Church.

This has been an issue for a couple of years now, and we’ve not seen anything in the way of movement. Part of the reason, I have been led to believe, has to do with the city’s long-term plans regarding the completion of the streetscape project on the block of Main Street leading from the intersection of Main and Wayne to the Main-Church intersection. Problem is, we’re eight or nine years into the planning and work on this project, and we’re not getting any sense from the new city-council majority that they’re interested in getting things jumpstarted to that end anytime soon.

In the meantime, people are left sitting at the traffic light for interminable periods, or they race up and down Church and Spring Lane, neither of which were designed to accommodate a lot of traffic.

Eventually people are going to wise up and realize that they can avoid the mess by taking Broad Street, and of course we don’t want that, not if we’re sincere about our ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown economy.


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