BENTON TOWNSHIP — Traffic lights have been removed at The Orchards Mall entrance off Napier Avenue after the Berrien County Road Department conducted a traffic study.
Michael Juengling, traffic safety supervisor with the county road department, said the traffic signal at Napier and Leeds avenues were brought down Wednesday. The change allows for a constant flow of traffic along Napier Avenue, while traffic along Leeds Avenue has stop signs.
The department’s traffic study revealed the Benton Township intersection did not have enough traffic coming out of the mall to merit a traffic signal.
“We turned those numbers over to Abonmarche and they did a signal warrant analysis,” Juengling said. “There’s a formula they use that comes from the state signage manual.”
The department did the study to secure a Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality grant worth $250,000 that would have gone toward improving the traffic signal.
The study revealed 305 cars head south on Leeds Avenue, while 663 cars head north – exiting Orchards Mall – on a daily basis. On Napier Avenue, 4,288 cars travel westbound and 4,624 head eastbound.
“We didn’t want taxpayer money to get wasted on a traffic light that wasn’t warranted,” Juengling said. “Instead we reapplied for money to go toward the traffic signal near Napier and Crystal (Avenue).”
Juengling said the process went quicker since the money was already allocated.
The plan will be to add cameras and replace the signal heads to the Napier/Crystal intersection.
The road department was able to take down the signal heads, traffic signals and spam wire that goes over the road after putting the signal on flash for 90 days. Juengling said the state mandates that amount of time before transitioning out of a traffic signal.
Road department workers have since added stop signs that also say “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” along Leeds Avenue.
“It’s a big expense to maintain those signals,” Juengling said. “This way, it doesn’t stop 12 cars on Napier (Avenue) to let one car out of the mall entrance.”
Benton Township Police Chief Brian Smit said he wants people to be cautious, and that police will monitor the intersection.
“When you’re traveling the same road over and over again, you get into a routine,” Smit said. “Drivers will have to pay closer attention as people will be pulling out of the mall there.”
Juengling said the road department is also planning to remove the traffic signal at Pipestone Road just south of the Aldi grocery store in Benton Township.
“We studied that one and realized it doesn’t qualify anymore,” Juengling said. “We switched it into flash mode. We don’t intend to put it back on, but it will flash for a minimum of 90 days.”
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