HJ - Garfield and South 16th Traffic Light

The Clarinda City Council approved a plan to convert the intersection of South 16th and Garfield streets to a four-way stop Wednesday, Jan. 22. A short in the wiring of the existing stop lights has caused the traffic control device to malfunction. The council confirmed plans for the removal of the traffic lights at the intersection during its meeting Wednesday, March 11. (Herald-Journal file photo)

Converting the intersection of South 16th and Garfield streets to a four-way stop received a green light Wednesday, Jan. 22, from the Clarinda City Council.

Traffic at the busy intersection is normally controlled by stop lights located at each corner of the intersection. However, when the traffic lights malfunctioned earlier this month, they were set to blinking red lights to create a four-way stop.

After discussing the potential cost involved in repairing the traffic lights, the council agreed Wednesday to leave the flashing red lights and add stop signs to regulate the four-way stop. In time, the traffic lights will be removed leaving only the stop signs to manage the flow of traffic in each direction at the intersection.

Clarinda City Manager Gary McClarnon told the council the cause of the malfunction was likely a short in the wiring of the traffic lights. However, efforts by the Clarinda Public Works Department to repair the lights have been unsuccessful.

"To have the company come down to troubleshoot it would cost $2,200 a day. They have no idea how long it would take and they have no idea, of course until they know what's wrong, how much it would cost to fix it," McClarnon said.

Therefore, McClarnon said he recommending doing away with the traffic lights and making the intersection a four-way stop as it has been in recent weeks.

"I think the traffic flow is actually better as a four-way stop than it was with a stop light," council member Jeff McCall said. "The congestion at the south end of town is better because you don't have a whole string of cars coming at once."

"I spoke to quite a few individuals throughout town, and they like it with the four-way stop. They had no preference on either the flashing lights or a stop sign, but they liked the four-way stop," council member Austin Ascherl said.

Council member Craig Hill estimated 70 percent of the people he spoke with supported the four-way stop. He said they believed the four-way stop would especially help people attempting to make a turn at the intersection.

"Every comment I've had from the general public has been leave it the way it is. They like the four-way stop," McClarnon said.

Clarinda is also participating in the Healthy Hometown Iowa initiative. McClarnon said that committee also recommended the removal of the traffic signals and replace them with stop signs.

"Also part of the Healthy Hometown Iowa initiative recommendation was to go ahead and put handicap accessible corners there and also put crosswalks in for the library," McClarnon said.

McCall suggested leaving the blinking red light in place for a short time after the stop signs are in place. He said that would help wean motorists off the traffic lights and allow them to get accustomed to the stop signs at the intersection.

"I like the visibility of the lights. In my mind, having stop signs there right now would just take that away. I'm sure people would learn over time. The other thing it would do, if we don't take it down right away and we find for some reason there is a need for it again, they're still up," council member Matt Ridge said.

"If the wiring has failed for the traffic signal, it's eventually going to fail on the flashing red light. A stop sign is pretty foolproof, unless it gets run over," McCall said.

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