By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Thick traffic on a busy strip of North Gloster Street has prompted calls by at least one business owner for the installation of a red light.
City officials have taken the request into consideration and now are seeking help from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which will conduct a new traffic count and perform other studies to determine if such a light is warranted.
The latest traffic count for the half-mile strip north of McCullough Boulevard and south of Lakeshire Drive was done six years ago and tracked 23,000 vehicles per day. But that number likely has climbed as a slate of new restaurants, hotels, retail shops, offices and a residential subdivision all located there since that time.
Among the newcomers is the Crye-Leike office plaza and its numerous tenants like the Lost Pizza Co., Mist, Home Chef Market, Tutti Fruitti and Oscar’s Fine Wine amp& Spirits. Dozens, if not hundreds, of vehicles whiz in and out of the plaza parking lot on any given day, adding to the chaos of the already bustling five-lane street.
Across the street, a row of hotels, restaurants and shops – including the region’s largest wine and liquor retailer, La Vino – also feed a steady stream of motorists into the congestion.
The owner of one of those businesses, Vanelli’s restaurant, who goes by the name vOz, asked the Tupelo Traffic Committee for a red light on March 27. He cited heavy congestion in the area as the reason, according to the minutes.
Committee members noted the problem and voted to seek aid from MDOT. The department will conduct a detailed analysis of the area before issuing its findings, said state Traffic Engineer James Sullivan.
“We’ll do the average daily traffic count, but we also get turning movement count with a technician at the intersections to count every movement,” Sullivan said. “We use state and national standards that are all pretty much volume based.”
Proximity to other traffic signals, as well as the number and types of vehicular accidents also play a role.
No accurate accident count exists for that area, said Tupelo Police Department Lt. Mark Miller, explaining that officers record accident locations differently. Only collisions occurring at intersections are readily identifiable, he said.
If MDOT studies fail to support a traffic signal, Sullivan said Tupelo can use other methods to control congested street sections. He mentioned a similar situation on County Line Road in Jackson where traffic became too chaotic for the five-lane road. The city ultimately replaced the middle turn lane with a median to force motorists into right turn-only situations. They then went to signaled intersections if they wanted to turn left.
“A five-lane is good for a certain volume of traffic, but once your reach a certain level of traffic and a number of driveways, you’re basically allowing lefts everywhere,” Sullivan said. “And it’s fine if you make a left, but if you can’t make a left because traffic is so heavy, then what’s the use?”