ATLANTIC CITY — Nick Russo waited almost two months for the city to fix the traffic lights at the intersection outside his liquor store.
“It’s horribly dangerous,” Russo, 69, said last week as he pointed at the blinking yellow light on Pacific Avenue and the blinking red light at Florida Avenue. “Young people can barely make it across the street.”
Since the traffic light broke earlier this year, Russo has seen minor accidents but more close calls as drivers either sped through the yellow light or crept into the intersection to turn onto Pacific, he said.
Finally, on Friday, the light was fixed. But with more than 200 traffic lights in the city, this isn’t the only intersection with issues. Business owners are having a tough time waiting for them to be fixed — and with the answers they get from city officials when they complain.
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“There has been an issue lately citywide with traffic lights,” 6th Ward Councilman Jesse O. Kurtz said. “I would acknowledge that they are taking a slower amount of time to fix them.”
When he asks about the lights, Kurtz said, he’s told parts are not being ordered in a timely manner, the order process is slower than usual or that there are budget issues and not enough money is being allocated by the state finance team to purchase the parts needed.
“I think it’s important for all our traffic lights to be working with good bulbs and to be functioning, not just a flashing red or yellow,” Kurtz said. “There are liability concerns if there ever was an accident, and it should be standard for a first-rate town like Atlantic City.”
A request for comment from the Department of Public Works that was routed through Mayor Frank Gilliam’s office was not returned.
City Council passed a resolution at its last meeting to purchase the needed parts. The contract was awarded to Signal Control Products Inc., a Somerset County-based traffic control and monitoring equipment company, for $65,440.
“As soon as the equipment arrives, which the city anticipates will be shortly, the city will set about repairing the traffic lights,” said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs, the state agency that oversees the city’s financial operations as a result of 2016 legislation.
The city’s website features a “Fix-it Form,” through which residents can email in complaints about traffic lights, potholes, litter and other issues.
Russo, who has owned and operated Russo’s Convention Liquor Store at the northwest corner of Pacific and Florida since 1973 and who served on the city’s Zoning Board during the 1980s and ‘90s, said police put out stop signs on Florida Avenue to alleviate the issue.
Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Kevin Fair said in the event there is a malfunction or issue with a traffic signal, an officer will evaluate the particular intersection to determine the best possible safety plan for car and pedestrian traffic while any issue is corrected.
Another light at Pacific and Missouri avenues has green and yellow lights out, while a light at Iowa and Pacific avenues was turned skyward during a windstorm and hasn’t been righted.
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“Only God can see it,” Russo said of the upturned light. “Or the airplanes that are going over.”
Ducktown Tavern owner John Exadaktilos said he sees nonfunctioning traffic lights every night when he drives home from his Atlantic Avenue business to Ventnor.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “It’s priorities. Everyone needs to get their priorities straight.”
Exadaktilos, 41, said lights and potholes should be fixed, especially since the city wants to pull in tourists.
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Russo said he offered to buy the bulbs the lights would need but was turned down.
“I’ve been here my whole life, and I’ve never seen it so depressing,” Russo said. “You just can’t get the simple things done here.”