Traffic light approved for Route 50 at 60 Foot Road

After years of traffic studies and multiple accidents – many fatal – the State Highway Administration has decided to erect a traffic light at the intersection of Route 50 and Sixty Foot Road.

There will also be new, separated turn lanes and advanced warning signs to improve safety and flow of traffic for the 25,000 vehicles who travel there daily.

Currently, improvements aren’t funded by the SHA, but a timeline for the traffic signal, and associated improvements, will be available by late summer, said Donnie Drewer, traffic engineer.

He explained past traffic studies have not indicated a traffic light was needed at Sixty Foot Road, but a recent study showed it is warranted. That study was done “in response to requests from the local community,” Drewer said.

Last Wednesday, the SHA hosted a public meeting at the Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department to talk about the plan. State Sen. Jim Mathias, as well as Delegates Carl Anderton and Mary Beth Carozza attended.

Traffic engineers explained results of the study and heard input from Pittsville residents.

Traffic engineers “analyzed a variety of factors including sight distance, pedestrian activity, crash history, proximity to schools, daily traffic counts, turning movements, physical geometry of the intersection and seasonal impacts,” Charlie Gischlar, who handles public information for the SHA, said.

Drewer said the engineers’ job is to “thoroughly research, analyze and study data and use engineering judgment to identify safety improvements for our highway.”

Ways to improve safety of Sixty Foot Road have been discussed for years, yet accidents and fatalities continued to occur, most recently with the death of Rehoboth Beach woman.

In a fresh effort to help, SHA officials met with the Pittsville Town Council, whose members asked them to also speak to the Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department.

Town residents attended and many objected to a suggestion to align the road so that drivers going east would have to head west first, and make a U-turn on Route 50.

“They brought up a lot of good points. We promised them we’d take another look and meet with them again on June 1,” Drewer said, adding even he had an accident at Sixty Foot Road, several years ago.

“There’s something about when you come out there. We even tried changing the angle … We tried a lot of things there. We have rumble strips there,” he said.

David Buck, also in the SHA’s community relations department, said engineers “take into account many factors in a traffic study — crash history, delays at the intersection, sight distance, proximity to schools, pedestrian flow, etc. — and also use engineering judgment to make their decisions. All engineers use the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices as a standard when making traffic engineering decisions,” Buck explained.

“Engineering decisions are made based on sound engineering studies and our engineers’ experience. Public input is always important but when it pertains to a decision being made about whether or not to make engineering changes on our roads, the decisions are guided by the traffic studies and the engineers,” Buck said.

“SHA engineers have decades of experience studying and reviewing traffic studies. We must and do make our engineering decisions based on facts, not emotion,” he said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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