(New Buffalo, MI) - Concerns are being raised about the new traffic lights in downtown New Buffalo not providing enough clearance for large boats heading to their slips in the coming months.
The new traffic signals at U.S 12 and Whittaker Street, which was installed by the Michigan Department of Transportation, are actually higher than the traffic signals being replaced. The issue is from the new traffic lights being fastened to metal bars parallel to the intersection.
The bars, running from poles beside the intersection, might be too low for the tallest boats to pass underneath while being towed out of winter storage, according to Bob Stratton, owner of Service 1 Marine near the state line. The original traffic signals were suspended above the intersection by cables sloping down from the tops of poles.
Stratton said the area between the original traffic signals and where the cables fastened to the poles was high enough for members of his crew pulling a boat to simply veer around the edge of the traffic lights to obtain enough clearance. “There’s no dodging these lights,” he said.
Fortunately, Stratton said only about five percent of the boats in his storage yard require such clearance and it remains to be seen if there’s going to be too low of a ceiling. “I’m hoping it’s not an issue, but I think we’re going to be o.k.,” he said. As a last resort, Stratton said windshields and other amenities on top of a boat would be removed to pass underneath if the traffic signal proves to be too low.
New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said the city has not been contacted by MDOT about plans to put up the new traffic lights since he took office in November. Humphrey said the city will reach out to MDOT, though, if clearance develops into a problem. He said boats unable to clear the intersection would be able to use side streets to cross U.S. 12 even if the city has to momentarily block traffic on the four lane highway. “We’ll make sure the boats can get to the marina,” he said.