, Salem, MA

February 22, 2013

Study recommended for traffic light

Quick action urged to make crossing at St. Adelaide Church in Peabody safer

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Look before you leap.

It’s a good idea when crossing the street, and a City Council subcommittee reluctantly decided last night that it’s necessary when trying to make it safer crossing Lowell Street at St. Adelaide Catholic Church.

Despite some frustration that things can’t move faster, the public safety subcommittee voted to recommend that the full council authorize a study in preparation for installing a traffic light at the spot where pedestrian Theodore Buttner was killed by a car on Jan. 27.

“The need is there,” Chairman Mike Garabedian said. “Somebody got killed. That’s what warranted this meeting.”

“Why do we need the traffic study?” council President Tom Gould asked, urging his colleagues to move ahead without one. “This is an emergency.”

But officials from the city’s Public Services Department explained that two types of lights could be installed and that at least one of these requires a study to determine need. One type would produce a flashing yellow light at the push of a button, alerting drivers that someone is crossing the street. The other goes from yellow to flashing yellow to solid red as pedestrians cross to flashing red.

“Solid red is what we’re looking for,” Gould said.

The price in both cases seemed to take the councilors aback, up to $50,000 for the yellow light and $90,000 for the red. City Engineer William Paulitz estimated that the study determining the density of traffic would take a month.

Parishioners and residents attending last night’s meeting added to the sense of urgency.

“People don’t stop,” Debby Brodbine said. “They zoom by. ... There’s sometimes a lot of old folks, and they don’t care — the drivers.”

“I’m going to be 83 next month,” Nancy Chandler said. “I want to live to be 90.”

A petition from St. Adelaide’s signed by 1,000 people and urging the installation of the crossing light was introduced by Ward Councilor Barry Sinewitz. He suggested using crossing guards on the road for the time being.

“I’d be interested in doing that,” resident David Patnaude said. “But if somebody doesn’t stop, can you do anything about it?”

The fine is $200, police Capt. John DeRosa said, providing the guard has gotten the proper training. Councilors asked for a campaign alerting more drivers to the consequences of violating the crosswalks.

“If somebody isn’t going to stop at a crosswalk,” Sinewitz said, “with a crossing guard there ... I don’t even want to think about that.”

He also suggested changing the speed limit to 25 mph in front of the church.

“It’s something we would be looking at,” said DeRosa, who added that more signs have been added.

The department also plans to place an electronic sign on the shoulder telling drivers how fast they’re going. First, however, the snowbanks will have to disappear.

Some councilors cited the location of a traffic signal on Lynn Street some years ago, following a fatal pedestrian accident there, as a precedent for going ahead on an emergency basis without a study. But there were doubts about the details of that decision and more doubts about the complications that might arise absent a study.

“To me, it seems you do the traffic study,” Sinewitz said. “As fast as you can. ... Expedite all these things to make the area safe.”

Patricia Caton, the daughter of Theodore Buttner, offered her thanks to the councilors for their efforts.