Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mayor Gooch speaks out about traffic light

J-E Editor
Despite rumors to the contrary, Providence Mayor Eddie Gooch says that the fate of the ‘uptown’ traffic lights are out of the city’s hands.

“The poles do not meet the 2012 standards set by the department of transportation,” Gooch said in an interview on Friday. “Even though a truck brought this to light when it took out the control box last year, this would have come up sooner or later.”

When the state updated the codes in 2012, the current traffic lights did not meet the new code, but in most cases regulation enacted by the state only effects new construction. The traffic lights could have set there for years, if last year’s accident hadn’t resulted in severe damage to the equipment.

Gooch said that many years ago, Mayor Chris Villines and the city, in an effort to beautify the city, went to great lengths to remove visible wiring from the uptown area, putting lines for the traffic and street lights underground, and rerouting electrical services behind the uptown buildings.

The result, however, is that the city only has two options if they decided to try keeping the stop light. Either they would have to run wiring across the intersection to put up hanging stoplights or they would have to invest in two state approved poles.

Those poles would each have arms to hold the lights for two directions, and they would cost the city (not the state) around $45,000 each.

“I’d rather see it turned into a four-way stop that to fill uptown with trash,” Gooch said in reference to the hanging lights. “And the city can’t justify $90,000 for street lights we don’t really need. That’s not how we do things.”

He said he had heard a variety of comments from citizens, both negative and positive about making the intersection into a four-way stop. It seems that the city is quite literally split down middle over the issue of the intersection that splits the city in half.

“The truth is, I don’t think we have enough traffic to justify the traffic lights,” he said. “There was never a traffic problem before they put the lights up, but since they were put in, it seems like I’m always setting there waiting. Anybody who has lived or worked in Providence has been in a situation where they were the only car on the road, but they had to sit and wait for the light to change.”

Gooch said simply taking a look at the US Census says a little about how traffic in Providence has gone. When he was elected as Mayor in 2004, Providence had 3,480 residents. According to the 2010 census that number had fallen to 3,200. More  recent numbers show the population has dropped as low as 3,087.

He also pointed out that over the entire distance Highway 109 runs through Hopkins, Union and Webster counties, the Providence stoplight is only stoplight one on that road.

“I understand people’s concerns,” said Gooch. “We get used to things being here. We have sentimental attachment to them. I absolutely hated to lose the water tower. But the city didn’t have any choice. Two different engineering firms told us it was a hazard and had to go. I didn’t want to lose my water tower. Nobody did.”

Since he brought it up, I asked Gooch about the tower and rumors that the city was working on something.

He said that the cross that once stood atop the Big Hill Water Tower would soon be back up for everyone to see. The city is in the process of setting a pole that will be nearly the same height as the water tower, and the cross will be set atop it.

“That’s hopefully just a temporary fix,” he said. “Councilman Doug Hammers is leading a group that wants to build a more permanent structure to hold the cross. The city will support them however we can, but the city wont be able to fund the project.”

The Providence Sign
“The arch is my next big concern,” he said. “I am very sentimental about the arch, but that will probably be the next thing to go. It’s way out of spec. If it fell down today we couldn’t put it back up according to state regulations.

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