By Jean Cole
Athens city leaders are considering whether to replace traffic signals with stop signs at a five-way intersection near the Farmers Market, and then turn the five way into a four way, converting one road into a one-way street.
City Council members voted 5-0 Monday to introduce a resolution that would convert the signalized intersection at Houston, Browns Ferry and South streets to a four-way stop. They are also voted 5-0 to introduce a resolution that would convert a portion of South Street West — between Madison and Houston streets — to an eastbound, one-way street.
Making the road a one-way is acceptable to Charlie Craig, owner of Craig’s Battery, which fronts Houston Street, but with garage opening on South Street.
Council members intend to vote on the matter at their Dec. 10 meeting but, before then, they would like to hear from motorists who use the streets. The move to convert the signals to stop signs is a technological one.
Public Works Director James Rich said the current signal needs repairs but the city can no longer buy parts for it. Replacing the signal would cost approximately $20,000.
“Removing the signal would result in less cost and speeding on Houston and Browns Ferry streets,” Rich said. He said the reason for converting the intersection to a four way is that it is difficult to implement a five-way stop with the configuration of the streets.
Rich said his department, Athens Electric Department and Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson studied the proposal and the traffic at the intersection to determine whether stop signs might work as well, or better, than a signal. One of the problems at the intersection, Rich said, are motorists running yellow lights.
Councilman Jimmy Gill, who said he was not in favor of conversion to stop signs at the intersection, said he doubted stop signs or conversion to a four-way would help.
“I don’t see how a four-way is going to slow it down,” he said.
Councilman Joseph Cannon suggested that without a signal, motorists could no longer run a yellow light and, if a motorist ran a stop sign and caused a wreck it would be clear who was at fault.
Rich noted that the council could try converting to stop signs and, if problems arose, the council could buy and install a new signal and remove the stop signs.
Mayor Ronnie Marks said the goal is to improve the intersection.
“What we are trying to do is improve it, not create problems, so we want input,” he said.