St. John's still working on traffic lights after collision-free morning commute

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St. John's still working on traffic lights after collision-free morning commute

People driving in St. John's are still facing dozens of damaged or destroyed traffic lights, after hurricane-force winds struck the city over the weekend.

There are 27 intersections inside the city without functioning lights, Counc. Danny Breen said Monday afternoon, and another 68 that are working but are not in ideal condition.

City crews are working to repair the lights which can be salvaged, and are dipping into the reserve of replacement equipment the city has on hand. Before the weekend, there were about 40 spare traffic lights, according to Breen, and more replacements are on order.

"We paid most attention to the higher priority intersections, and making sure that we created the best to our ability a safe intersection in those cases," he told reporters on Monday.

Collision-free morning

Despite the many intersections without working lights, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary says there were no collisions in St. John's during the commute, as of 10:30 a.m.

Const. Daniel Morrissey said traffic service officers were placed at six major intersections without working traffic light boxes. Those officers were not actively directing traffic, but were monitoring and were able to step in if needed.

Breen praised the drivers for their care on Monday morning.

"People obviously understood the situation we were in, and made sure that they acted accordingly and with extra due care and caution in a very trying circumstance."

Breen believes the staggered opening times for a number of city and provincial government offices helped ease rush-hour traffic.

Too courteous?

Despite the lack of collisions, CBC observed several drivers not following three-way and four-way stop rules throughout the morning, sometimes opting to go when they saw an opening or waving on other drivers to go at the wrong time.

Morrissey said while people may do that with the best intentions, it is dangerous and should be avoided.

"We appreciate that drivers are showing courtesy to other people on the road, but we are asking that everyone obey the basic principles of a four-way stop in order to keep traffic flowing," he said.

"However, if you're not sure who has the right of way, it is safer to yield right of way to the other drivers rather than risk a collision."

City workers started the process of finding and collecting broken and scattered traffic lights on Sunday, and are trying to see how many can be repaired and salvaged.

Ones that can be repaired might be put at intersections where the lights are gone completely, so Breen said there may be some intersections with just one traffic light for some time.

"It's a major undertaking, but our staff have dealt with it," Breen told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

There's no timeline yet for how long it will take to get all the repairs done, but Breen said the city has an interactive map on its website that will show drivers which intersections have been repaired, and which ones still need work.

Breen added city staff will review the windstorm and how it impacted the traffic lights once all the immediate repairs are over.

He estimated the city has suffered about $150,000 worth of damage because of the storm.

"It's the first time I've seen those lights, actually in that magnitude, come off the poles," he said. "We were in to a very, very unusual windstorm."

Along with the lights, a number of trees also fell to the ground.

"I think we're quite fortunate that there was no more serious results out of that storm, so I think that certainly that was a major concern."

A number of schools closed for the morning or the full day due to power loss and heating issues Monday.

In the meantime, temporary stop signs have been posted at intersections where the lights are missing altogether.

Newfoundland Power is still listing a number of outages for people on the Avalon and Burin peninsulas, as well as in the Whitbourne and Conception Bay North areas.

About 3,600 customers were still without power late Monday afternoon, Newfoundland Power said. Some 1,600 of those customers were on the Burin Peninsula, about 1,000 in the St. John's area and another 1,000 in other parts of the Avalon.