NAUGATUCK — The most dangerous intersection in the borough finally has a working traffic light.
The light at Maple Street and Old Firehouse Road downtown began working Thursday, Fire Chief Ken Hanks said. Installation had begun over the summer and the light had been flashing red, but now it cycles through green and yellow. The fire department can control the light when one of its trucks is responding to a call, Hanks said.
The intersection had a traffic light until 2006, but it was replaced by stop signs after inspectors found a crack in the overhead pole. The signs did not prevent accidents, according to a study the following year that deemed the intersection the most dangerous in several area towns.
“Remember that old video game called Frogger?” Hanks said. “That’s what it was like to cross Maple Street.”
Dozens of accidents have been reported at the intersection since the light disappeared, including a crash last month that sent two people to the hospital.
“We’ve had a lot of close calls where you hear brakes squealing and people screaming at each other,” Hanks said.
The department’s ability to control the light will also prevent dangerous situations that arise when a fire truck pulling out is blocked by a line of cars, Hanks said.
“Forcing people through the red light can cause an accident that we would be responsible for,” he said.
The new light, which cost the borough about $22,000, was the subject of a battle two years ago between borough officials who thought it was an unnecessary expense and those, including Hanks and Police Chief Christopher Edson, who pushed for it. Eventually $25,000 was added back into the budget for the light.
Since then, the borough designed the light, put the product out to bid and spent six months waiting for the new pole to arrive, said James Stewart, director of public works. The steel pole conforms to more modern Department of Transportation standards and is less likely to crack, Stewart said.
The state Department of Transportation agreed to reimburse the borough 90 percent for the light, which cost $223,000 to install and inspect. NY-CONN, based in Danbury, put up the light and Milone & MacBroom of Cheshire inspected the construction process. The light is now in a 30-day test period before the borough chooses whether to accept the work, Stewart said.
The intersection also has new pedestrian signals on all the corners.