'Blocking the box' on local roads may become costly

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Jun. 30, 2011
Councilman Chip Beckett proposed posting more signs and postponing the fines. Photos by Steve Smith.
Councilman Chip Beckett proposed posting more signs and postponing the fines. Photos by Steve Smith.

Soon, obstructing a side street while waiting in traffic – or ‘blocking the box’ – may get a driver more than just frowned upon (or gestured at). It could cost motorists $93.

The Glastonbury Town Council scheduled a public hearing for July 12 to impose a moving violation fine for that amount for drivers who block key intersections.

Town Manager Richard Johnson said the Public Act, which came about in 2009, allows for towns to create an ordinance designating certain intersections where the fine can be incurred.

Intersections mentioned included Bantle and Griswold streets, Hebron Avenue and House Street, and Hebron Avenue and Concord Street.

Johnson said that although there are such signs posted (such as at Hebron and Concord), currently, they are not enforceable.

“It would be signed and marked on the pavement, and that would be a moving violation,” said Johnson, adding that the ordinance must name specific intersections, and not be a blanketing one that encompasses the entire town.

Johnson said the fine is similar to those for parking on a sidewalk or similar violations.

Councilman Tim Coon said he could think of many other intersections in town where such blocking occurs, specifically at Main Street and Naubuc Avenue.

“I get people beeping at me when I stop at the green light, because I see that I cannot get through,” Coon said.

There was also a question as to whether it would include intersections where traffic control signals are in place, and Johnson said he would double-check the wording.

But some council members read the language to mean that, regardless of a signal, the rule is in place.

“I don't think it's an issue,” said Councilwoman Carol Ahlschlager. “You're not supposed to proceed into an intersection unless there's sufficient space to cross. Saying there's a green light is no excuse. I think it means you can't cross unless there's space.”

Ahlschlager added that many of the most problematic intersections are the ones that have traffic signals.

Councilman Chip Beckett proposed marking other intersections and seeing whether that has an effect on traffic, before imposing the fines.

“We could put signs,” Johnson said. “Some people stop, and some people ignore it.”

“I don't think we should wait and see,” said Councilman Bob Zanlungo. “I think we should get the ordinance passed and get it controlled, then we'll see if that changes things. I'm sure it will. The first couple of $93 tickets will change their minds about screaming through the intersection.”

Johnson said Police Chief Thomas Sweeney - also the town's traffic authority - would be at the July 12 hearing, to provide information on the police department's concerns.

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