LAKE PLACID - Some local residents, including this village's mayor, think a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Saranac Avenue and Wesvalley Road should become a permanent fixture, but nearby business owners aren't quite ready to give the idea the green light.
In a letter published in this week's Lake Placid News, Gene Davis of Lake Placid writes that the village of Lake Placid "should find a way to make the temporary light a permanent one." The traffic signal was installed in mid-August to alleviate traffic congestion caused by road work on Old Military Road.
"It is a great aid to traffic control, speed control and pedestrian safety," Davis wrote.
Should this temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Saranac Avenue and Wesvalley Road in Lake Placid, seen Thursday, become permanent?
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Davis also suggested that nearby crosswalks be moved to the intersection so pedestrians can cross the street at the light.
Village Mayor Craig Randall told the Enterprise he's heard similar remarks from other locals, and he thinks the light has made things easier for motorists looking to turn off of Wesvalley Road onto Saranac Avenue.
"In the summertime especially that is an extremely difficult road to get out of onto Saranac Avenue," Randall said. "The light, in my opinion - the board hasn't discussed this so it's only my opinion - has resolved the problem that the county highway project created for us this summer. But it's also demonstrated that perhaps a permanent light would be very effective there."
Jean Pelkey, owner of the Lake Placid Hair Port, located at the corner of the intersection, said she helped push for the temporary light and also supports making it permanent. She said she had to leave her business one day in August to do traffic control so people could turn off of Wesvalley Road.
"I'm 76 years old," she said. "I called everybody. I told them and I wanted to put it down on paper that there were two near accidents."
The temporary light isn't timed right, but it's an improvement, Pelkey said. She said it doesn't give motorists on Wesvalley enough time to turn, which causes traffic to back up. She said it would help her business to have a permanent light.
"Right now, once they get in, they can't out," Pelkey said.
But not everyone thinks it's a good idea.
Denise Dramm owns the Placid Bay Inn, located directly across from Wesvalley Road next to the temporary traffic light. She said the signal has resulted in increased traffic noise in front of her hotel.
"It's so bad that many of the people that stayed here, that gave us rave reviews in Trip Advisor, complained about the noise from that traffic light, but said, 'Well, it's temporary construction,'" Dramm said. "And then people drive like maniacs to try to get through the light on Wesvalley. It's a total blockage when people have to stop to turn into McDonalds or any of the other businesses.
"We do not need a traffic light there if Old Military Road is open. Because 90 percent of what you're seeing coming up Wesvalley Road is because they can't go up Old Military Road."
John Gagnon, general manager of Compass Printing Plus, said he thinks the light has had an impact on his business, which is located at the corner of the intersection.
"It makes it extremely difficult to get in and out of our parking lot," he said.
But Gagnon said the light isn't all bad. He said it seems to improve traffic flow and prevents motorists from turning too quickly off of Saranac Avenue.
Randall said the board could look at drafting a resolution encouraging the state Department of Transportation to consider making the traffic light permanent. The temporary light was installed by a contractor working for the Essex County Highway Department.
DOT spokeswoman Carol Breen said the village would have to contact her agency to request a signal study at the intersection.
"We would need to wait until the Old Military Road project is complete and the temporary signal is removed," she wrote in an email. "At that point, we would do an in-depth study into traffic operations to determine what type of, if any, signal is warranted. This would include looking at accident data, traffic volume and other factors, along with site visits by traffic engineers. The studies usually take about three months to complete."
Randall noted that the intersection is less busy during the off-seasons - late autumn and early spring - and that the light could change to a flashing yellow signal for Saranac Avenue and a flashing red one for Wesvalley Road.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or email@example.com.
(Editor's note: John Gagnon's title has been corrected from owner to general manager.)