Malfunctioning traffic light contributes to cause of fatal motorcycle accident

(WXYZ) - An intersection on Detroit's west side is back open after the city fixed malfunctioning traffic lights which contributed to the cause of a fatal motorcycle accident Wednesday evening.

The problem was the intersection of West Warren Ave. and Beechwood Ave.

Neighbors tell 7 Action News the light malfunction has been going on for a long time and they have reported the problem to the city but nothing has been done.

The motorcyclist never stood a chance against the mini-van he collided with, but the odds were stacked against the motorcyclist even before he drove up to the intersection.  While at the scene investigators noticed something suspicious, that the traffic lights were red and green at the same time.  So while the driver of the mini van thought he ad the right of way, so did the motorcycle.

As you can see in the pictures to the left, the traffic lights are showing conflicting signals.

Police said the man on the motorcycle was speeding, but a source close to the investigation tells us that no one can be placed at fault because of the signals being out of sync.

"They real messed up.  It be off sometimes," said Asia Maryland who lives nearby.  

People in the neighborhood tell 7 Action News the lights have been out of sync for some time, and this time, it cost a man his life.

When we started asking questions about the lights police told 7 Action News that The Department of Public Lighting contracted the traffic lights out to another company and that company is responsible for the lights.  We went to the Department of Public Lighting to ask why the lights malfunctioned.

We wait to be buzzed into the building, but no one came out. I am soon told I have to contact the mayor's office.

When I call mayoral spokesman Bob Warfield he told me the Department of Public Works is in charge of the traffic light.  According to Warfield the city has no complaint from anyone on record that there was a problem with the traffic light.  Warfield told me he was meeting with DPW right then and would call me back.

Warfield called me back and then had this statement sent to 7 Action News.:

The Warren-McGraw-Beechwood intersection where the fatal accident occurred has two traffic signals facing motorists in each direction . One of the signals was in a turned position last evening when the accident occurred, but the other was in its normal position.  Based on police reports, the motorcyclist apparently ignored the red light that was facing him and focused on a green light that was in a turned position.  The motorcyclist crashed into a vehicle that had the right of way.

The City of Detroit's Department of Public Works (DPW) had received no complaints about a traffic signal problem at the intersection before the Wednesday evening accident. DPW believes heavy winds caused the signal to turn into the wrong position. The contractor responsible for maintaining the traffic signal was notified by a Detroit Public Lighting Department operator at 6:08 a.m. Thursday. The contractor sent a crew to the site and repaired the traffic signal by 8:02 a.m. Thursday.    

After the accident occurred, the Detroit Police Department made several calls to a contractor that is not responsible for repairing the traffic signal in question.  These calls were made at 9:19 and 10:46 p.m. Wednesday night, and at 12:56 a.m. and 6:28 a.m. Thursday morning.

The traffic signal system at Warren-McGraw-Beechwood was already scheduled for complete signal modernization, using federal transportation funds. Final plans are due to MDOT by July 2013, and contracts are scheduled to be awarded in September 2013.

-- Detroit Department of Public Works

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