Gonzales Council discusses removing signals on Burnside, approves new P&Z commissioner

Halen Doughty

The Gonzales City Council approved a nomination for a new planning and zoning commissioner following the passing of commissioner Terry Richey. Upon a recommendation from the commission, the council approved the nomination of Scott Hughes to fill the open seat.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux said at the April 9 meeting that Hughes has served on the Civil Service Board for some time, as well as being active in the city. Hughes thanked the council for its vote of confidence.

"I want to thank everyone, the mayor, council, planning and zoning for giving me the opportunity to be able to help move the city forward and be a part of planning and zoning," said Hughes. "I really look forward to being a big help with that and hoping that we can continue on with everything that they have been moving with."

The council also approved an ordinance to require vehicles to be parked on a parking surface, rather than in someone's yard. City clerk Scot Byrd noted that the purpose of the ordinance is to prevent people from using their front yards as a driveway.

"There are occasionally people who park a lot of vehicles in their yard," said Byrd. "There's also a provision in this ordinance to create a 12-hour exception so that if you have a party or family event, that's not adversely affected."

The council then discussed removing two traffic signals on Burnside. City engineer Jackie Baumann said two studies from the Department of Transportation and Development in 2010 and 2014 showed the signals at at Railroad St., Ascension St., and E. Roosevelt St. are not warranted.

"Meaning today they would not be installed at those locations," said Baumann. "There isn't a reason they should be there."

Baumann said an updated study evaluating traffic and crash data found the same results. She added that maintenance costs for the signals would be higher than simply removing them. She recommended removing the lights at Railroad St. and Ascension St. but keeping the one at E Roosevelt St. She said because of the school located at E Roosevelt St., she believes that signal should remain in place.

Baumann said the other two lights at Railroad St. and Ascension St. are only about 300 feet apart. She added that the small blocks along Burnside are below the federal requirement for a block, meaning it is convenient for a drive to drive to the signal if they feel they need it. She noted that during peak driving hours, the flow of traffic would have a smoother transition without stopping as much.

Baumann said if the signals were removed, stop signs would be put up on the side streets. The federal process for removing signals begins with public notice with a flasher board for 30 days before anything is changed. The next step involves bagging the lights but leaving them in place for 60 days to show drivers the lights are out of commission. She said this gives officials the chance to evaluate traffic patterns and potential crashes.

After that transition period, the lights could be removed. Baumann said the cost of taking down the traffic signals is about $7,000. If all goes according to plan, the lights would be bagged during the summer while school is not in session to give drivers a chance to adjust before traffic picks up in the area. The council gave Baumann the go ahead with the plan to remove the lights.

The next meeting of the Gonzales City Council is Monday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

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