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City adjusts to new timings

Posted on Monday, January 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Traffic Signals (1)

The traffic signals at the intersection of Main and Washington have gained the greatest number of complaints since the City of Fayetteville’s recently completed signal optimization study. Designed to change at 90-second intervals, the intersection’s signals are now in compliance with federal American Disability Association (ADA) guidelines which require the timing to allow pedestrians adequate time to cross.

Most locals traveling along city streets – in particularly along Main and its crossing streets – are getting used to new timings that are a part of Fayetteville’s recently completed signal optimization study.

“We’ve gotten a lot of complaints, but a great deal of that is people getting used to it,” said City Mayor John Ed Underwood during the Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s January work session.

Gaining the greatest complaints, officials agreed, is the intersection of Main Avenue and Washington Street where vehicles traveling east and west have secondary priority to those traveling north and south. The timing at the signal has been adjusted to where those on Washington often have to wait, regardless of how heavy the traffic is on Main, to allow adequate time for pedestrians to cross, even if pedestrians aren’t present. The time allowance brings the city into compliance with federal American Disability Association (ADA) guidelines.

Two engineers – Chris Rhodes and Beth Ostrowski – with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., met with the City Board during the work session to discuss the completion of the study, funded with $82,000 in state and federal dollars through the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Program.

Referring to the Main Avenue and Washington intersection, Rhodes said the maximum wait is 90 seconds, but Alderman Michael Whisenant disagreed, saying he had timed it and the wait is longer.

“It should be 90 seconds unless you have a faulty detector,” Rhodes said, adding that they would double-check the timing at the intersection and make sure it is working properly.

The two engineers estimate that implementation of the new timings result in an average delay reduction of 55 to 60% during the morning, mid-day and afternoon “rush hours.” That, they said, saves those traveling almost daily through the city an estimated $630,900 a year in time and fuel consumption.

The study included counting vehicles on a 24-hour basis, looking at recommended changes, and changing the timing of the lights for better traffic flow. The main transportation avenues are being given priority as far as time to allow the largest number of vehicles to pass, while vehicles on the side roads, where travelers are fewer in number, are seeing increased wait times.  

The firm divided the city into two different zones, the downtown zone and the Huntsville Highway zone, and established four different timing schedules in the controllers – an early morning schedule, mid-day schedule, early evening schedule, and an overnight period.

During the overnight period – from midnight to 4 a.m. – the lights will go into flash operation, since the traffic flow is very low, in some cases less than 18 cars per hour.

Intersections where the signals flash yellow and red in the overnight hours are to be treated as proceed with caution or stop lights, depending on the direction you’re traveling. The major street flashes yellow, meaning traffic may proceed with caution, yet at a slower speed. The minor street where the signal flashes red are to be treated as a stop condition.

At intersections that operate in a red flashing mode all the way around are to be treated as an all-way stop.

Traffic lights in downtown are operating in a yellow/red flash mode with the lone exception being the Main Street and College Street signal.  Main Street/College Street operates in an all-red flash mode.

The Huntsville Highway and Wilson Parkway intersection continues to operate with a standard red, yellow, and green mode, yet with a shorter time schedule with cameras to detect oncoming traffic when a car stops at the stop line. All of the remaining lights on the Huntsville corridor operate in a yellow/red flash mode on the side streets.