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OPINION: Drivers ignore ‘the box’

OPINION: Drivers ignore ‘the box’



“It shall be unlawful … for any person to fail to comply with any traffic sign, marking or signal unless otherwise directed by a member of the Police Department.”

That’s from the Meriden City Code, § 200-6, under the heading “Compliance required,” and it seems to me to provide plenty of authority for the MPD to crack down, if necessary, on motorists who “block the box” in front of Engine 3, the firehouse on Broad Street. The “box” is the big white rectangle painted on the road, with a big white “X” inside it, meaning, well, “Do not block the box.” No fine is mentioned for this in the City Code, but that could always be arranged.

The painted box and the “X” were added to the street in 2013, along with signs that read "Do not block the box." Motorists are supposed to leave the area clear, creating a gap for fire engines to get in and out.

But do they? Not so much.

What brings all this to mind is that the Southington Town Council recently approved fines for drivers who block marked intersections, and the first area targeted will be on Spring Street in front of a new restaurant. Drivers stopped in the painted areas of an intersection could be fined, although police would likely start with warnings.

And if it’s important to keep traffic moving on a commercial strip, how much more crucial is it to keep the road clear for fire engines responding to an emergency?

To make things worse, the Engine 3 firehouse is hemmed in by the traffic lights at Liberty Street and East Main Street. At busy times every day, traffic clogs this block of Broad street, and Engine 3 is caught in the middle.

So I went down to the subterranean crypt where we keep our newspaper clippings (for older readers, just think of Jack Benny’s vault: cobwebs, creaking doors and crocodiles) and found that this problem is not new. Back in 2016, for instance, Fire Chief Ken Morgan had a few things to say about it.

“In the afternoon, between 3 to 6, it's pretty much always blocked,” Morgan said of the firehouse driveway. “It happens just about every day, it’s just about always blocked during that window.”

Of course, the paint fades over the years, and it’s up to the state Department of Transportation to keep it up, since Broad Street is a state road.

Morgan also made the interesting observation that professional drivers, such as bus and large-truck drivers, tend to obey the rule, while civilian motorists don’t.

***

For a second straight year, Meriden’s annual St. Patrick's Day parade is in jeopardy because the city no longer chips in for it. The organizers, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, are scrambling to raise about $5,000 for the 47th annual parade, which is scheduled for March 21. They’re holding a fundraiser on Feb. 29.

Well, here’s a modest proposal:

St. Patrick’s Day is almost always too gosh-darn cold for a parade. And besides, what about all the other ethnic groups that make up the Meriden community?

Move the parade to warmer weather and make it more inclusive. Call it the Meriden Heritage Parade. Open it up to the Italians and the Poles and the Puerto Ricans and the French and all the other groups represented here, Including the Irish.

Just a thought.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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