To the north of Chestnut Boulevard, at the corner of Second Street, there is a retaining wall built of railroad ties, topped with arborvitae that grows to a height of about four feet.
The wall curves out a little, making it difficult to see oncoming traffic from Chestnut Boulevard without stopping just inches from the intersection. Even then, the sight distance is only about three or four car lengths.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Mary Ellen Pyke said the wall is the reason the traffic light at Chestnut Boulevard and Second Street must stay.
If the light is removed, she is afraid accidents at the intersection will increase and someone will be seriously injured or killed.
Pyke took her argument to the traffic control board last month, but the board opted 5-1 to send it on to Falls City Council for a vote.
On Feb. 20, Pyke tried to persuade her colleagues to vote against removing the light.
Council will make the final decision today when it votes on the measure.
The city wants to remove the light so it can use the parts to upgrade the traffic light at Second Street and Sackett Avenue. The move will save the city about $12,000.
During the Feb. 20 meeting, John Konich, the city’s information technology services director, said a traffic study showed that the light at Chestnut and Second was not warranted.
But under questioning by Pyke, he agreed that the study does not recommend removing the light.
“No, it does not say it should come down,” Konich said. “But it does say it might not be warranted.”
Konich said it is not the city’s intention to put anyone in danger.
“There’s a reason why we do this,” he said. “In this case, to have two lights back-to-back on a low-volume street. You don’t see that anywhere else in the city.”
Councilwoman-at-Large Carol Klinger criticized Konich for commissioning a traffic study during the summer, when traffic in the area is the lowest.
Konich disagreed that the traffic count is lower in the summer. He also disagreed that the retaining wall is a problem.
“If you pull up several feet, you can get a better line of sight,” Konich said. “You don’t have to pull into the intersection.”
Klinger said that may be true for a normal car, but not a low-riding vehicle.
Public improvements committee chairman Don Walters said he will ask for an amendment to keep the light but set it to flash as a compromise.
Pyke hopes her fellow council members vote the ordinance down.
“Every bone in my body tells me this light needs to stay,” Pyke said. “This is something we, as a council, have to decide: Do we want to move people through faster, or do we want to move people through safer?”