EDITORIAL: Traffic flow in Tupelo

Tupelo’s traffic flow issues occupy substantial official attention, and some, like the Crosstown intersection with its trains, are very difficult; others, like signage on a few downtown streets, would seem to be easily resolved.
In late 2007, Tupelo’s Traffic Committee, with every good intention, recommended removing traffic lights at the intersections of Jefferson and Church Streets, Jefferson and North Broadway, and Green and Magazine.
The recommended replacement was for four-way stops at the Broadway and Church intersections with Jefferson. The Green and Magazine interchange was signed as the committee’s minutes reflect: a two-way stop on magazine, giving right of way to Green Street traffic.
The intent for Jefferson at Broadway and Church became a mixed communication, resulting in stop signs on Broadway and Church streets, both north-south routes crossing Jefferson, a main east-west route leading to and from downtown Tupelo.
While the Traffic Committee’s goal was improved traffic flow, the signage is arguably inadequate, and the number of traffic accidents at the intersections has risen substantially since the signal lights went dark.
Police statistics show big increases in accidents in the two years since the traffic lights were removed, compared to the previous two years:
• North Broadway at Jefferson: five more accidents.
• North Church at Jefferson: 10 more accidents.
• Magazine at Green: six more accidents.
Many people who regularly use or have line-of-vision views of the intersections in their workplaces report near misses or eye-witness accident accounts when drivers did not obey the signage.
While it is a driver’s responsibility to drive defensively, long-standing memory of former traffic lights and assumptions about four-way stops probably influence drivers’ decisions, thus the increase in accidents at all three intersections.
Tupelo Water and Light Department manager Johnny Timmons, whose employees are responsible for installing signals, said he would go back to the Traffic Committee with the increased-accidents numbers and lobby for a change.
While installing the four-way stops as the Traffic Committee minutes direct may be adequate, we hope the committee considers the need for traffic lights.
The traffic is not a continuous 24-hour flow, but the Jefferson intersections are on “busy” corners involving the Lee County Courthouse, Justice Center, First Baptist, First Presbyterian and First United Methodist churches, and in the case of Church Street, traffic coming from and going to Church Street Elementary School, plus increasing numbers of commercial and professional offices in the formerly mostly residential neighborhoods.
Experience is a good teacher, and so far the new-flow experience has been more dangerous.

NEMS Daily Journal