City removes Third Street traffic lights

Sep. 22—Traffic lights at the Third Street and Choctaw Avenue intersection are coming down.

City employees were working Wednesday to remove all four traffic lights at the the downtown McAlester intersection.

Plans are to replace the traffic lights with stop signs at the intersection's four corners. The four-way stop sign currently placed in the middle of the street is to remain in place until the four new stop signs are installed on the streets corners.

City of McAlester Utility Maintenance Foreman George Estrada used a bucket lift to reach the traffic signals early Wednesday so he could disconnect them. He lowered the disconnected device by a rope and pulley to Head Gardener Robbie Patton and Cody Conner of the Parks Department, who assisted with the project. They then loaded the covered traffic lights in the back of a truck.

The process that led to the lights' removal began in August, when intermittent issues with the malfunctioning traffic lights at Third Street and Choctaw Avenue led City Manager David Andren to direct city personnel to turn them off and move to the four-way stop sign. At that time, no decision was made as to whether to repair the traffic lights at the intersection or to keep the four-way stop permanently in place.

Andren said he wanted to conduct a traffic count before making a determination The city set traffic counting wires at the Third and Choctaw intersection as well as the intersection of Choctaw Avenue and Second Street in downtown McAlester, which already had four-way stop signs in place.

"Over a four-week period we did look at that," Andren said during his most recent city manager's report. "It's double on Second Street to what Third Street gets."

Andren said the traffic count at the Third and Choctaw intersection averaged 1,500 vehicles a day, while the one at Second and Choctaw averaged around 2,900 vehicles a day.

He said the city also checked with merchants near the Choctaw Avenue and Third Street intersection, who were in favor of removing the intersection's traffic lights.

"Merchants we talked to were in favor of it," he said — all of which led to his decision to have city employees remove the traffic lights at the Third and Choctaw intersection.

Andren said in August that before the city shut the traffic lights off, he'd already inadvertently driven through red lights twice at the Third and Choctaw intersection. He said he didn't expect traffic lights at the intersection and he maintained they were not placed for the best visibility. Traffic lights at the intersection were individually mounted on their own poles, which extended upwards from the sidewalks.

He previously told city councilors he went to the scene in August when the traffic lights at the intersection had stopped working. When he arrived, they were working once more. Andren said he left, but he soon received another call saying the traffic signals had once more stopped working.

"It's on and off," said Andren, which led to the decision to go ahead and shut the traffic signals down and to set up the four-way stop signs in their place while the city conducted the traffic count study.

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