Newport traffic light controversy

NEWPORT, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Traffic was moving smoothly through downtown Newport on Thursday. It's something Teresa Webb, co-owner of Flowers by Wilma, attributes to city council members voting to cover up the nearby traffic light at the intersection of Broadway and Jefferson Avenue.

"I've had so many people that have come into the store and they love it. They love it because it's bagged and they can get through town," said Webb.

Webb said the light started causing problems about a year ago, when the state put in two new traffic lights on Broadway operated by sensors. All of the old lights - including the one at Broadway and Jefferson - are on timers. She said that caused a lot of congestion, which is why she went to city council to complain.

"It backs all the way through town, you can not back out, you can not get in a business, it's terrible," she said.

City council considered that, as well as a state study which said the light wasn't needed and at its last meeting, it voted to cover it up.

But Custom Care Cleaners across the road from Flowers by Wilma says now that traffic is flowing constantly in front of its business, no one can get in or out easily.

"I had to help one lady back out on the street. I had to get in her car and back her out on the street just for her to get out. I've had several people complaining, they've said they don't understand, you know, why they would do this to hurt these small businesses," said Lisa Gregg, whose husband owns Custom Care Cleaners.

She said the business has already lost thousands of dollars, which is why she's started a petition to bring the light back. She plans on addressing city council at its next meeting on Tuesday.

Newport's city administrator said because the light is so old, it can't be upgraded to work on a sensor system. He said if the city wants to keep the light and have a smoother traffic flow, it would have to pay about $150,000. He said the state won't pay for the project because it recommended that the light be taken down.


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