Andover will need to conduct a traffic study before changing signal configuration in Elm Square, where a five-year-old girl was hit and killed by a truck while crossing the street earlier this month.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials outlined the process for Andover News Tuesday, a day after an agency spokesperson said state approval was not needed for signal timing changes — a direct contradiction to guidance Town officials received last week. The confusion stemmed from different rules for minor changes and more significant changes, which could create traffic problems.

As currently configured, traffic lights allow cars to turn right into crosswalks when Walk signs are lit. Sidney Olson was hit while the walk light was lit.

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Signal changes fall under a complex web of state and federal laws, as well as MassDOT regulations and a 1982 agreement between Andover and MassDOT’s predecessor, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works.

Andover can increase the amount of time walk signals are lit by simply notifying the state, but anything more — including installing No Turn On Red signs and programming lights in all directions to remain red when walk lights are lit, as Walk Bike Andover is demanding in a petition — will have to wait until MassDOT can review a completed Road Safety Audit.

The Town has notified MassDOT its traffic consultant, TEC Engineering Inc., has already started gathering information and data for the RSA. 

The Town said Wednesday it will hold a community forum on June 8 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium at Doherty Middle School (50 Bartlet Street) to discuss the steps being taken to address safety concerns, hear resident concerns and outline the process for studying and, if warranted, implementing changes.

“Our commitment to pedestrian safety has never been greater, and it has only been strengthened in the recent weeks,” Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said in a news release announcing the forum. “I think that residents will see that reflected in the weeks and months ahead.”

Photo: Dave Copeland/Andover News

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