Manassas Journal Messenger | Haymarket gets first traffic light

Amongst the hustle of metropolitan D.C., it’s unusual to find a small town without a traffic signal.

Haymarket was one of those remaining bastions of quaint, small town comfort.

But the town, which dates back to colonial days and beyond, grew and grew. And it seemed no one obeyed the 25 mph speed limit. Cars stacked for blocks trying to turn left or right onto Washington Street from Jefferson Street and, according to many residents, the intersection was an accident waiting to happen.

Last week the Virginia Department of Transportation installed a traffic signal.

For the town of about 1,000 people, this signal is the first.

It begins operation Tuesday and residents have mixed emotions about the green, yellow and red.

Many Haymarket residents agree that the new traffic light at Jefferson and Washington streets was needed to slow traffic on the main drag and allow cars to make turns.

“We need it because it’s hard to get out [of our driveways],” said Michelle Neal-Heard, chairman of the Haymarket Historic Commission. “I would have liked to see it in the old style post to match the street lights instead of the pole going across the street.”

The brown pole should have been decorated wrought iron, she said. But it’s against VDOT’s policy to install antique-style poles with signals on them.

Neal-Heard lives about two blocks from the intersection, which used to be free flowing along Washington Street with a stop sign facing Jefferson.

In the morning cars backed up for blocks on Jefferson as people waited for a clear spot to pull out onto Washington Street, also known as Va. 55.

“It’s definitely not aesthetically pleasing,” said Sandy Turner, town resident and member of the architectural review board. Lately she’s been walking to her job at Haymarket Self Storage because she said it takes just about the same amount of time as sitting in traffic.

A conscientious architectural review board member, Turner is also concerned with what the signal looks like.

She’s a little annoyed by its appearance, but not its contribution to safety.

“It doesn’t look very colonial, but hopefully it’ll help with the speeding and traffic situation so there aren’t as many accidents,” Turner said.

Other people who work in the town reminisced about the days of old and acknowledged the need for the modern safety modification.

“It possibly does [change the character of the town], but from a safety standpoint, it was needed,” said Brenda Jenkins, who works at Dominion Construction, located at the intersection. “But I can’t think of another town that doesn’t have at least one stop light.”

She said people used to cut through the business’ parking to avoid long lines of cars waiting to turn onto Washington.

Haymarket’s police chief agreed that the electronic signal was needed to make the intersection safer.

“That’s a really dangerous intersection, especially first thing in the morning,” said Police Chief James Roop. “It makes the whole place safer, it really does. I’m glad to see it.”

He added that with the signal, people now have a “glimmer of hope” for pulling out onto Washington Street from Jefferson Street.

Staff writer Lillian Kafka can be reached at (703) 878-8091.

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