What's up with Brattleboro's downtown lights?


BRATTLEBORO -- The downtown traffic light system has been malfunctioning and it could cost the town up to $10,000 to fix it.

Public Works Director Steve Barrett said he and Fire Department Alarm Superintendent Joe Newton have been working on the problem and it appears as though the pedestrian push button devices have been short circuiting when it rains, causing the lights downtown to flash uncontrollably.

"The ones we have don't work very well," Barrett said. "When we purchased them they met the specifications and our needs but they malfunctioned just a few years after we installed them. It's been a work in progress."

The new pedestrian push button switches were installed when the town partnered with the state to install the new traffic light system along Main Street in 2011.

But Barrett said neither the state nor the push button manufacturer are willing to replace the boxes and Barrett said he is going to have to find the money in his budget to replace the boxes.

"They shouldn't have broken, they should have held up better," Barrett said. "But the manufacturer denies there is a problem."

According to Barrett the pedestrian push button boxes are built to be ADA compliant which allow sight impaired pedestrians to hear the chirping tones when it is safe to cross the road.

He said this function allows moisture into the circuit board which causes the circuits to short out, which make the traffic lights blink.

Barrett said he and Newton have been looking for a new company to replace the pedestrian push boxes and are close to choosing the new devices.

Barrett said any device with electronics in it has the potential to fail, and even though the devices are less than four years old it is just something his department is going to have to deal with.

Barrett said he has about half of the money in his 2015 budget, but will probably have to ask the Selectboard for the additional money in next year's budget to cover the full cost of taking care of the problem.

Barrett said he does not think the blinking traffic lights are a pedestrian or traffic safety issue.

The town occasionally puts the lights into a blinking mode when the Public Works Department is doing sidewalk or roadway work and he said the blinking lights actually force drivers to slow down and use more care when going through road crossings.

Barrett said he hopes to purchase and install the new pedestrian boxes in the next few months.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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