Champaign resident becomes cross at traffic lights

By Rachel Bass

Champaign County resident Roxanne Heaton urged the Champaign City Council on Tuesday night to change the existing traffic light policy for the four-way intersection of John Street and Mattis Avenue.

The regular traffic light pattern of green, yellow and red changes to flashing red lights on John Street and flashing yellow lights on Mattis Avenue between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. The council adopted this policy in April 2003 and instituted the same traffic light pattern for the intersections at Kirby Avenue and Mayfair Road and Market Street and Moreland Boulevard.

Heaton said the John Street and Mattis Avenue intersection was the busiest of the three. She brought video footage and film of the congestion as evidence.

Twelve accidents have occurred since the light pattern changed, Heaton said. One accident involved Jenna Shedenhelm, her daughter. She said her daughter slowed down at the flashing red lights on Mattis Street, but an oncoming driver continued to speed through the flashing yellow lights and drove up over the hood of Shedenhelm’s car; however, all accidents have been non-fatal.

Heaton said the long stretch of road encourages speeding and the council would need to consider revising its policy.

“If I could prevent one parent from getting a phone call like I did, it’s well worth it,” Heaton said. “There needs to be a change before something worse happens.”

Heaton said council members had told her that the flashing-light pattern made it more convenient for people to drive at night because they would not have to stop at empty intersections at 2 a.m. But Heaton disagreed, saying council members have underestimated the amount of traffic driving through that intersection during the late evening and early hours of the morning.

Council members Ken Pirok and Kathy Ennen agreed with Heaton and said they had heard identical complaints.

“It’s way too busy, even after midnight,” Ennen said.

Ennen urged the Public Service Department to change the four-way flashing red lights into regular signals.

“They seemed genuinely concerned (tonight),” Heaton said. “They’ll do something.”