Vernon council approves flashing lights at trails that intersect with roadways

Steven Goode, Hartford Courant

The Vernon Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to install flashing pedestrian lights at crossings to five walking trails that cross roadways in town.

The decision, while already in the planning stages for some time, comes on the heels of the hit-and-run death on Phoenix Street of Andrew Aggarwala, 44, who was a popular soccer coach in town.

The council approved spending up to $60,000 on the lights, which are are battery-powered and have a solar panel to recharge them. People using the trails would activate the crossing lights by pressing a button, which causes yellow LEDs to flash as a warning to oncoming drivers that a pedestrian is using the crosswalk.

“We are constantly evaluating the safety of every facility in town, including our parks and trails,” Mayor Dan Champagne said. “We decided to move forward on these five crossings because of traffic volume and the number of people who use them.”

David Owens, a spokesman for the town, said police Chief James Kenny and Capt. John Kelley evaluated vehicle accident data, crossing sight lines and historical data before making their recommendation that the town purchase and install the crossing lights and signs, which will be located at: West Street, Hartford Turnpike, Dobson Road and Birch Street, Center Road, and Phoenix Street and Warren Avenue

The West Street and Hartford Turnpike lights will require approval from the state Department of Transportation because both are state roads. The estimated cost of a set of lights for each location is $9,070. Installation is expected to begin next spring, according to Owens.

Aggarwala’s death prompted two neighborhood residents to initiate a petition to have crosswalk signals installed and also install sidewalks.

Mark Shekleton and his neighbor Jessica Wawzyniecki’s petition for crosswalk signals currently has more than 1,100 signatures.

The petition to install sidewalks on Phoenix Street from the Manchester town line to the rails-to trails crossing and on Washington Street from the existing sidewalk at the Dobson Street rails-to trails crossing to the existing sidewalk on Lake Street currently has more than 400 signatures.

Steven Goode can be reached at sgoode@courant.com.