Whitehall is considering replacing traffic lights with stop signs at two locations: one outside Beechwood Elementary School and the other outside Etna Road Elementary School.

The proposal has divided members of both Whitehall City Council and the Whitehall school board.

Ordinances to enact the changes in the city's traffic code are scheduled for a second reading at Whitehall City Council's next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 5, at Whitehall City Hall, 360 S. Yearling Road.

If approved, a traffic light in front of Beechwood Elementary School, between Etna Street and Sigmund Avenue, would be removed.

The stop signs on Etna Street and Sigmund Avenue at Beechwood Road would be made into three-way stops.

Currently, traffic on Beechwood Road has the right of way at both intersections.

A traffic light at Etna Road and Beaver Avenue, outside Etna Road Elementary School, also would be removed in lieu of the intersection becoming a three-way stop.

All the new stop signs would have LED lights, said Development Director Zach Woodruff, who added he will ask for the legislation to be passed July 5 on its second reading.

"Our goal is to have the new stop signs in place as soon as possible and certainly before the start of school (Aug. 16) ... to allow for the public, especially the walking public, to get accustomed to the change," Woodruff said.

But Councilman Wes Kantor, who opposes the change, said he will ask for the legislation to be postponed July 5, allowing a third and final reading at the July 18 council meeting.

He encouraged residents who want to speak about the proposal to attend the July 5 meeting in the event council opts to act on the legislation as an emergency at the second reading.

Kantor said he opposes the change on the basis of safety.

"People run more stop signs in this city than they do traffic lights," he said.

Kantor said he believes most area residents oppose the changes.

School board Vice President Walter Armes said he also opposes the switch.

Taking out traffic lights would give the appearance of a "freeway in front of the schools," Armes said.

"I'm afraid a child could get hit," he said.

Board member Leo Knoblauch said he supports the change, as does the district's administration.

"It makes sense to make these stop signs," said Knoblauch, adding traffic lights unnecessarily stop motorists when school is not in session.

"People are annoyed with the lights all day long" during school days when the students are in the building, Knoblauch said.

The change also has the support of Councilman Larry Morrison.

"(Woodruff) approached (Councilman) Lee (Stahley) and me about it and we support it," said Morrison, adding he concurs with the district that the locations of the rebuilt schools, slightly different than their original locations, are better suited for stop signs.

Woodruff said the idea stemmed from a meeting he had with David Hausmann, director of operations for Whitehall schools, to discuss multiple subjects.

"We both feel that stop signs are a better option," said Woodruff, adding it would enhance safety and save the city money in the long term through reduced electricity costs and maintenance of the traffic lights.

"Changing these three-way intersections from lights to stop signs will help control traffic during nonschool hours as well as provide a safe crossing during typical school arrival and dismissal times," Hausmann said.

"We feel this change will help promote an increase in overall safety for our students who attend those respective schools."

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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