Safety Matters: COVID-19 and Speeding: A Dangerous Combination

safety_matters_logoCOVID-19 and Speeding: A Dangerous Combination

 

It seems as though we have all read the news stories about the impact the current pandemic is having on life as we know it—quarantining, physical distancing, economic crises, and the obvious health and safety of so many. Unfortunately, another unintended outcome is the increase in speeding on our nation’s roadways, leading to serious injury and fatal crashes. The lack of traffic and congestion on roads, from our busiest highways to our local streets, has created an “open road” for those looking to live out their race car driver dreams. Many are ending up seriously injured or worse, or injuring or killing vulnerable users, and creating additional strain on both law enforcement and medical workers.

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, many states have reported alarming speed increases, with some, such as Colorado, Nebraska, Indiana, and Utah, noting a significant surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more. State police in Florida and Iowa are reporting drivers going 20 to 40 miles over the posted speed limit. In New York City, despite far fewer vehicles on the road, the City’s automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets citywide on March 27, or nearly double the 12,672 tickets issued daily a month earlier. In Georgia, a police officer clocked a driver speeding down a local road at 103 MPH past a city park, a fire department, and an apartment complex filled with out-of-school children—all in the middle of the day on a street with a 45 MPH posted speed limit.

Connecticut is also experiencing an increase in speed and a rise in fatal crashes. Data show that during the month of April, at many locations, the percentage of drivers traveling faster than 80 mph has doubled and in some cases has increased as much as 8-fold when compared to preceding months of 2020—this includes locations where the speed limit is 55 mph.

Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti stated, “Our state, and our nation, have suffered tremendous loss from COVID-19. Every driver on the road can help prevent more senseless death, injuries and strain on our first responders and the healthcare professionals that are working tirelessly to combat this virus. We are appealing to the public on a personal level—now more than ever—please recognize the impact of speeding and extreme speeding on every family and every person in this state. Please don’t speed, and together, we’ll get through this.”

Other states are also noticing that although they are experiencing reduced crash rates, the crashes are more serious. In Minnesota, between March 16th and April 21st, thirty-five people died in car crashes—the most in that period in at least six years, even as about half as many cars as normal are on its roads. “There’s a lot more available lane space for people to use—and abuse,” said Michael Hanson, Director of Minnesota’s Office of Traffic Safety, adding that speeding and aggressive or careless driving were the most common factors in the lethal crashes. Among the drivers Minnesota police pulled over was a man clocked going 110 mph who told the officer he was just out for a joy ride.

Not only does this behavior put the first responders at risk during this pandemic, but it also impacts the hospitals which are already strained in many locations. GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins commented, “Law enforcement officials have the same mission as health care providers—to save lives. If you must drive, buckle up, follow the posted speed limit and look out for pedestrians and bicyclists. Emergency rooms in many areas of the country are at capacity, and the last thing they need is additional strain from traffic crash victims.” In many places, the decrease in vehicular traffic volumes has resulted in an increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic. These vulnerable roadway users are at a higher risk of being injured or killed in a crash, and in Nevada and Rhode Island, state officials note pedestrian fatalities are rising. Faced with this additional impact from the coronavirus, many places are finding various ways to try and combat this trend. Police departments and local and state government officials are working together to try and curb these excessive speeds. The California Highway Patrol has started posting pictures of the speeds some are hitting and the tickets they’re getting on their Twitter account. Georgia officers posted images of a crash on their Twitter feed to remind drivers to slow down. Many others are also using their social media accounts to warn drivers of the consequences of speeding.

The CTDOT and the CT State Police have partnered on an initiative to target speeding drivers, with highway variable message signs displaying the message “Help Our Heroes – Please Don’t Speed.” They also released two Public Service Announcements as part of the campaign. One can be viewed by clicking on the picture below and you can view the other, here.

In Los Angeles, where speeds are up by as much as 30% on some streets, the City has begun making timing changes to traffic signals and pedestrian walk signals in an attempt to slow drivers down and keep everyone safe. In Austin, TX, where preliminary numbers show traffic crashes were down 20% in March compared to January and February 2020 but the number of serious injuries caused by crashes was up 15%, the Austin Transportation Department is changing traffic signal timing on key corridors so signals change quicker, resulting in drivers having to stop for red lights more often. Many other cities and towns are looking at technology as a means to combat the increased speed. Our Traffic Signal Circuit Rider, Tess Schwartz, has written a companion article for this issue of Crossroads providing more information on traffic signal solutions.

Additional Helpful Resources on This Topic:

“The Roads Are Quieter Due to Coronavirus, but There Are More Fatal Car Crashes” by Scott Calvert, The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-roads-are-quieter-due-to-coronavirus-but-there-are-more-fatal-car-crashes-11588152600

“With Less Freeway Traffic Due to Coronavirus, There’s More Speeding and That Worries CHP” by Anh Do, Matthew Ormsmeth and Pauline Repard, Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-19/less-freeway-traffic-coronavirus-more-speeding-chp

“On Austin’s Empty Streets, Drivers Find a Need to Speed” by Samuel King, KUT, Austin, TX, April 8, 2020, https://www.kut.org/post/austins-empty-streets-drivers-find-need-speed

“Empty Georgia Roads Creating Dangerous Desire for Triple-Digit Speed” by Randy Travis, Fox 5, Atlanta, GA, April 15, 2020, https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/empty-georgia-roads-creating-dangerous-desire-for-triple-digit-speed

“State Traffic Down 50% on Average During the Pandemic” by Kimberly Drelich, The Day, May 3, 2020 (updated), https://www.theday.com/article/20200502/NWS01/200509881

“CTDOT and State Police Launch Please Do Not Speed Initiative” Connecticut Department of Transportation, May 8, 2020, https://portal.ct.gov/DOT/News-from-the-Connecticut-Department-of-Transportation/2020/CTDOT-and-State-Police-Launch-Please-Do-Not-Speed-Initiative

For more information and assistance with local road safety in your community, contact Melissa Evans, Safety Circuit Rider, at melissa.evans@uconn.edu.

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Signal Spotlight: As Traffic Changes, Cities Adapt

traffic_signal_spotlights_logoAs Traffic Changes, Cities Adapt

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every facet of our society, including how we manage traffic signals. According to UConn researchers, speeds have increased during the statewide stay-at-home order, as have the number of fatal crashes. Additionally, pedestrian pushbuttons have been eyed as a vector for transmitting the virus in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Park Street at Washington Street, Hartford

Several Connecticut cities are taking measures to address these issues by making changes to the way their signals operate. This is important as an FHWA study, Speeding Counts … On All Roads (2000), determined that over 50 percent of speeding-related fatalities occur on lower speed collector and local roads, which carry only 28.1 percent of the total vehicle miles traveled in the United States.

Hartford recently put several traffic signals in pedestrian recall mode so the pedestrian phase is served during every cycle.  New Haven has taken the same approach at about 90% of its signalized intersections, with 263 programmed through the central ATMS system and 20 sites visited in person to make the changes. An added benefit of putting the signals into pedestrian recall is that they come out of coordination, which can help reduce vehicular speeds.

According to an article “Using Traffic Signal Control to Limit Speeding Opportunities on Bidirectional Urban Arterials” published in the Transportation Research Record in 2018, case studies show it is sometimes possible to substantially reduce speeding opportunities with little or no increase in vehicular delay by lowering cycle length, lowering progression speed, dividing an arterial into smaller ‘‘coordination zones’’ with each zone having its own cycle length, or by abandoning coordination altogether (Transportation Research Record 2018, Vol. 2672, Issue 18 ).

The City of Norwalk also took this approach, taking the intersections of Martin Luther King Boulevard at Low Street, East Avenue at Sunset Hill Road, and Belden Street at Van Buren Avenue and Riverside Avenue out of coordination. While we don’t know what the future of transportation will look like after the pandemic, Connecticut municipalities have adapted well to the changing transportation environment.

Speeding Counts … On All Roads (FHWA)
https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt/data_facts/docs/speeding_counts.pdf

Transportation Research Record 2018, Vol. 2672
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0361198118790638

Additional traffic signal resources can be found on the T2 Center website:
https://t2center.uconn.edu/TechnicalAssistance/TrafficSignalCircuitRider/

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Warren’s Words of Wisdom: Are You Happy or Just Chipper?

warren_words_wisdom_LogoAre You Happy or Just Chipper?

Seems that every public works crew and tree company routinely uses the large tow-behind industrial chippers. Driving past the scene where these are at work can reveal some scary stuff about how they are used. The state DOT crews are usually decked out in all the correct PPE, face/eye/hearing protection, hard hats, no loose-fitting clothing.

On the local level, the observed safety practices can vary widely—less PPE, smaller crews, some young-looking crew members (don’t take offense everyone looks young to someone 65, okay 66…what I meant is inexperienced workers). Every year, workers with less than one year on the job have the highest number of fatalities/injuries.

Here’s what OSHA says:

Hazards

  • Workers making contact with or being pulled into the chipper.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Face, eye, head or hand injuries.

Safe Work Practices

  • Never reach into a chipper while it is operating.
  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothing around a chipper.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety instructions.
  • Use earplugs, safety glasses, hard hats and gloves.
  • Workers should be trained on the safe operation of chipper machines. Always supervise new workers using a chipper to ensure that they work safely and never endanger themselves or others.
  • Protect yourself from contacting operating chipper components by guarding the infeed and discharge ports and preventing the opening of the access covers or doors until the drum or disc completely stops.
  • Prevent detached trailer chippers from rolling or sliding on slopes by chocking the trailer wheels.
  • Maintain a safe distance (i.e., two tree or log lengths) between chipper operations and other work/workers.
  • When servicing and/or maintaining chipping equipment (i.e., “unjamming”) use a lockout system to ensure that the equipment is de-energize.

Every chipper is designed with safety devices for quick shutdown. Do the safety devices work? Do you test them before every use? Can you think of a worse way to go than being dragged into a chipper?? Hint: NO cuffed gloves!

(Just like my old Corvair, except mine caught fire and nearly burned the house down…story for another day, not my fault)

This link is a good video by Vermeer that reviews all the right things about using a machine that could shred my 1964 Corvair (told you I was old, even spell check didn’t know what a Corvair was): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1_zvvf-47w

 

 

 

Must admire the swimming pool filters

Tired of hearing about COVID-19? I know many are. I’m grateful my family and both friends have stayed safe, so far. I look at wearing my PPE at work just like the PPE we need to use in public to prevent spreading or catching this stuff; but it won’t be forever, this part is temporary, it shall pass. Patience is needed to see this out so no one in your family or mine must suffer from something totally avoidable. Soon enough we’ll be looking back on the days when social distancing gave us an excuse to not stand next to that co-worker with the gas problem. Here’s a near genius COVID-19 mask option.

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Innovation Station: Online Learning Opportunities and Resources for Public Works

innovation_station_op2Online Learning Opportunities and Resources for Public Works

We are all navigating a new environment and doing our best to remain productive while being limited in where we can go and what we can do.  Public works departments are adjusting their operations to split shifts and asking staff to work virtually.  One option for those staff that are staying at home is to use the time to brush up on their operational safety and technical knowledge.  Below are several options for worthwhile learning opportunities.  These resources can be accessed at the user’s convenience and carry no cost.

Videos and Webinars from Our Colleagues Across the Country:

ADA Basic Requirements for Self Evaluations and Transition Plans for Public Rights-of-Way – New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWETEi708Rs&feature=youtu.be

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) Webinar Series – A series of free webinars being hosted by the Ohio Local Technical Assistance Program:

AASHTO TC3 Training Opportunities:
These two offerings are free through May 8, 2020.

  • Personal Protective Equipment (TC3TS007-15-T1)
    Note:  After May 8th, you will still be able to access this for free with the local agency code below.
  • High Visibility Garments (TC3TS008-15-T1)Note:
    After May 8th, you will still be able to access this for free with the local agency code below
    .

If you are interested in other topics, you can access their complete list of safety trainings here. If you click on the link for additional safety trainings and want to participate in other modules, use CODE: D5X3-B3D9-52CB-4XCX at checkout, and the fees will be waived.

APWA Member Library (free access through May 25, 2020):
http://www3.apwa.net/memberslibrary/index?id=847578&key=baf61ca3-5845-49e4-baaf-4992cfaa7ef5

CIRMA Member Public Works Resources (several free online training choices available for CIRMA members):
http://cirma.ccm-ct.org/cirma-home/publicworksresources.htm

COVID-19 Resources for Public Works Leadership:

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Warren’s Words of Wisdom: Spend A Little Time Looking Around the Shop

warren_words_wisdom_LogoSpend A Little Time Looking Around the Shop

I’ll go out on a limb and guess you may be having to be creative about how you get your work done during this current situation and you may have some time to spend looking around the garage/shop. When things are busy, unsafe conditions can inadvertently be allowed to build up and become part of the normal. You probably have a few things that you’ve been telling yourself, like “We’ll get to that one day” or “Should really have that fixed.”

When was the last time anyone did a full safety inspection of the garage and shop? Be honest now, has it been over a year, or since your mother-in-law said she liked you? I’ll bet you a dozen glazed Krispy Kreme’s (the world’s BEST doughnuts) that it’s been too long since you really did a detailed comprehensive safety inspection. Well, now’s as good a time as any, and to help you do a thorough job, I am providing a link to a checklist UConn created that’s pretty good and free. Your garage may have extras that aren’t covered by the checklist, but you’ll be able to identify those unique to your situations and handle them.

General Workplace Health & Safety Inspection Checklist

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  • Does everyone know how to use the eye wash station?
  • Is your eye wash station covered in dust and dirt?
  • Does it have fresh water, or are there small fish in the tank?
  • How long do you flush?

I am a big fan of inspections of slings and rigging equipment. Think about how you treat your rigging equipment (not well)—and then you expect it to lift heavy things and not fail, dropping those heavy things on you. ALL rigging equipment must have a tag/marking telling you the rating of the piece (OSHA). Here’s a great clip to watch to help you identify what to look for and links to additional information.

The 6 Most Common Problems Found During a Rigging Gear Inspection

Anything look familiar? (these are bad by the way)

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A Very Near Miss – The situation depicted below shows a down wire (23K kV) that was lying on a fire hydrant and setting fire to grass. The fire hydrant is connected to a steel water main, and the entire water main was energized. The volunteer fire company stopped at the next fire hydrant beyond the second white house and was in the process of flaking out hose, when the Fire Marshall recognized the electrical hazard and stopped the hose team from touching the fire hydrant. Once Ever source arrived and made the situation safe, the hose team was able to connect and put out the grass fire.

Great situational awareness and hazard recognition by the Fire Marshall, he saved lives!!

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You know your boss may not like you when…

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he wears the hearing protection and doesn’t give you any!
Stay healthy, my friends!

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Signal Spotlight: Engaging the Public in the COVID-19 Era

traffic_signal_spotlights_logoAmid the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Lamont has suspended in-person open meeting requirements, and communities are looking for ways to receive valuable input from residents while social distancing. We’ve put together a quick guide with some ideas, and we encourage you to share your own.

ss.420.1Virtual Town Halls

Many towns in Connecticut have moved to offering virtual town halls as a solution for regularly scheduled meetings during
COVID-19.

  • East Hartford broadcasts its socially-distanced meetings on the local public access television channel. Residents can listen in real-time and call in via telephone.
  • Hebron and Mansfield are using townhallstreams.com to stream and archive their public meetings.

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Avoid “Zoom Bombing”

Safety Tips for Video Teleconferencing

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. Require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share Zoom conference links on public social media.
  • Change screen sharing to ‘Host Only.’
  • Ensure users have up-to-date Zoom clients. In January, Zoom rolled out a security update that added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.

For more information, check out this guidance from the FBI.

  • A number of towns are using Zoom Meetings to host and record town agency meetings. Zoom, along with other web conferencing tools, allows users to share documents and images on-screen with the video feeds of users.

For more information on Telephone Town Halls, FHWA offers a fact sheet and recorded webinar on the subject.

Virtual Public Meetings

Public involvement is central to the design process for transportation projects. Typically, agencies hold in-person meetings where constituents can view plans and renderings of a proposed project, hear information about the project and provide their input. These public input sessions can also be held successfully online.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is continuing its efforts by hosting a virtual public meeting for its 2019-2022 Rural Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) revision. The meeting, to be held in April, will be hosted online. The meeting notice and public comment form are posted on the TxDOT website to allow residents to participate.

All-In-One Tools

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All-in-one tools are “one stop shops” that combine crowdsourcing features, mapping, visualization, file storage and sharing, and survey instruments. These tools require setup and staff training but have the potential to reduce overall public outreach costs. View FHWA’s fact sheet on All-in-One Tools.

Crowdsourced Maps

Crowdsourcing project or transportation planning-related information from large numbers of residents can be facilitated through interactive mapping. The Capital Region Council of Governments recently used an interactive mapping tool in the public involvement process for developing their Complete Streets Plan.

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Users can click on the map and add information on the types of bicycle and pedestrian issues present at the location.

FHWA offers a fact sheet and recorded webinar on interactive mapping.

Creative Solutions

Css.4.20.5onnecticut municipalities have shown us their innovative capabilities through participation in the Creative Solutions Award Program, and throughout this crisis you continue to surprise us! On the topic of public involvement, the Journal Inquirer recently reported on a drive-through town meeting in Vernon where residents dialed into a public hearing via telephone. They then drove to town hall where, with windows rolled up, they could show their driver’s license and give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to the proposal.

We hope this helps as you adjust to the “new normal.” If there are other virtual public involvement ideas you have tried, please share them with others by posting to one of our listservs or emailing Regina Hackett at regina.hackett@uconn.edu.

Stay safe and connected, everyone. We’re all in this together!

Additional traffic signal resources can be found on the T2 Center website:
https://www.t2center.uconn.edu/signalcircuitriderNEW.php

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Signal Spotlight: Traffic Signal Removals in New Britain

traffic_signal_spotlights_logoOver the past decade, the City of New Britain has removed unwarranted traffic signals at a number of locations, providing cost savings in the form of traffic signal replacements, electricity and ongoing controller and equipment maintenance.

Removing these unwarranted traffic signals required an engineering study to confirm that the traffic volumes fell below the levels indicated in the MUTCD warrants and that appropriate intersection sight distances were provided. The Engineering, Public Works, Police and Board of Education staff collaborated to ensure negative impacts would be avoided. We’ve provided a summary of a few of these locations, with before and after photos.

Ellis Street at Bassett Street

Date of Removal: 2015
Replacement: All-way stop control

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The intersection of Ellis Street at Bassett Street is located in a residential neighborhood with the Northend School situated on the southeast corner.

The traffic signal at this location was aging, and the Department of Public Works received numerous complaints regarding the signal going into flash. When this occurred at night, city residents were forced to pay two employees a minimum of four hours of overtime pay for an emergency call-in.

ss.3.2020.2During an inspection of the signal, a weld between the span pole and base plate at the northeast corner was found to be 30% corroded. The poor condition of the pole base and anchor bolts posed a safety concern, so Public Works removed the signal poles and equipment, replacing them with four-way stop control. The Engineering Division then conducted a traffic study to examine replacing the signal.

The City then conducted an engineering study to examine traffic volumes, crash history, and other factors and determined to leave the all-way stop control in place because a traffic signal is not warranted at the location.

Some residents and crossing guards feared eliminating the traffic signal would reduce safety at the intersection and were opposed to the removal, but the intersection has continued to operate efficiently with no significant increases in crash frequency or severity.

Hart Street at Lincoln Street

Date of Removal: 2015
Replacement: All-way stop control

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Hart Street at Lincoln Street is a low-volume intersection located in a residential historic district. In 2012, the City converted a full-function traffic signal to all-way stop control with stop signs and flashing beacons. In 2015, when faced with the decision to either remove or replace the traffic signal, Public Works and the Police Commission decided to remove the beacon, eliminating the associated ongoing maintenance costs and requirements. The City removed the old, rusty controller cabinet and other equipment and painted crosswalks at the intersection, making it more aesthetically pleasing overall.

Monroe Street at Vance Street

Date of Removal: 2015
Replacement: All-way stop control and changed adjacent intersection to two-way control

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The intersection of Monroe Street at Vance Street is located within a residential neighborhood. The traffic signal equipment at the intersection was outdated, and upgrading or replacing the signal was estimated to cost $150,000. Engineering conducted a needs study and found the traffic volumes did not warrant a traffic signal at the location.

The adjacent intersection of Monroe Street at Coolidge Street provided all-way stop control. A review of traffic volumes and sight lines at the Monroe Street at Coolidge Street intersection showed that all-way stop control was not warranted. The City removed stop signs on Monroe Street to provide two-way stop control on Coolidge Street and minimize the number of stops vehicles are required to make along Monroe Street.

Allen Street at Oak Street

Date of Removal: 2017
Replacement: All-way stop control and changed adjacent intersection to two-way stop control

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The intersection of Allen Street at Oak Street is located within a commercial area and was once controlled by a traffic signal. Traffic signal equipment at the intersection exceeded its design life and required increased maintenance, and an engineering study revealed the traffic signal was not warranted. Based on the volumes alone, two-way stop control was warranted but there was limited intersection sight distance looking west from Allen Street, so the City installed four-way stop control. During the transition from signalized control to stop sign control, the existing controller flashed red on all approaches for approximately one month.

As closely spaced stop-controlled intersections along a corridor can lead to aggressive driving and reduced compliance with stop control, the City removed stop control on the Allen Street approaches at the adjacent intersection with Carlton Street at the same time the Oak Street signal was removed.

Allen Street at McClintock Street

Date of Removal: 2015
Replacement: All-way stop control

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In 2014, the City was evaluating the Allen Street at McClintock Street intersection as part of Phase I of a project to reconstruct a section of Allen Street, from Farmington Avenue to Oak Street.  Engineering conducted a traffic signal needs study, which indicated the traffic signal was not warranted. In 2015, the City installed four-way stop control at the intersection rather than replacing the traffic signal, reducing the cost of Phase I of the Allen Street reconstruction project and eliminating the cost of future traffic signal maintenance.

Corbin Avenue at Pinehurst Avenue
Date of Removal: 2018
Replacement: All-way stop control

The intersection of Corbin Avenue at Pinehurst Avenue once had a flashing beacon facing all three approaches. During a milling and paving project in 2017, the City calmed traffic in the area by reducing travel lane widths to 11 feet, installing bike lanes in both directions, and adding a parking lane on the west side of Corbin Avenue. Although travel speeds were not collected, the City noted that speeds appeared to have been reduced after the changes, and crashes remained low. The flashing beacon was removed.

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Additional traffic signal resources can be found on the T2 Center website:
https://www.t2center.uconn.edu/signalcircuitriderNEW.php

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