McCullough and Stenger Street traffic light is still out, city considers alternatives

Special to the NEWS

Two months after an auto accident disabled the traffic signal at the intersection of McCullough and Stenger Streets, the city of San Benito is still weighing traffic control options.

Since the Oct. 8 incident, traffic at the intersection has been governed by temporary stop signs as well as a police officer directing traffic.

“We put an officer there. We told him to be there during the peak [traffic] times …,” Mayor Celeste Sanchez said Monday. She went on to say the city commission, which heard public comments regarding the intersection last week, has repair discussions on the agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting on Dec. 16.

The electrical box that controls the signal was damaged when a driver traveling west on Stenger Street failed to yield the right-of-way to a driver northbound on McCullough Street. The driver on McCullough Street struck the one traveling on Stenger Street, causing that driver to lose control of their vehicle and strike the control box, an aluminum utility pole, and a wooden utility pole, according to a police report obtained by the San Benito News.

After filing a report with the driver’s insurance company, the city sought cost estimates from the Texas Department of Transportation about repairing or modernizing the signal control mechanism. “It’s an older system. It’s been difficult to find parts for it,” said City Manager Manuel Lara. He said he is expecting work estimates from three vendors. In the meantime, the Public Works department installed permanent stop signs, he said.

Both the mayor and city manager said they have received positive feedback from residents now that the intersection has become a four-way stop, which has prompted inquiries about including protected left turn signals. “One person commented that the four-way stop lessened traffic congestion,” said Mayor Sanchez.

In a letter addressed to her, as well as the city commission, resident Joe Rodriguez, who lives near the intersection, states, “believe it or not, traffic has run ‘more smoothly’ due to the fact that everybody has to stop at the intersection” and makes it easier for him and his neighbors to exit their driveways during school hours. He went on to say the city should consider a “protected left turn option.” Speaking with the News Monday, Rodriguez elaborated, saying the city “should save money and leave it as a four-way stop.”

But Lara says McCullough Street may not be wide enough to accommodate a turning lane. “That’s another reason we’ve brought TxDOT in,” Lara said, to examine the “width of the road to see if it allows us to have a left turn signal.” Lara says the city is willing to consider a four-way stop if a turning lane is not possible. “We really appreciate all the comments from both sides,” he said. “We’re working on it,” he added.

Mayor Sanchez echoed that sentiment, saying she advised people to “drive safely. It’ll get fixed.”

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