By Troy Rother, City Traffic Engineer
Early last year, the city began constructing sidewalks, medians and traffic signals to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers on University Drive along the Texas A&M campus. The project was inconvenient and frustrating, but it was necessary for an area that continues to grow and expand.
When the project is finished early this summer, you’ll need to pay close attention to what’s changed about pedestrian and vehicle movement. The physical improvements include:
- Medians on University Drive to create refuge areas for pedestrians at intersections.
- New traffic signals that improve pedestrian flow across the roadway.
- Shared-use paths to accommodate more pedestrians and bike users.
- Repaved traffic lanes and new landscaping.
We’ll also deploy an upgraded new traffic signal operation plan to take advantage of the latest technology and provide added green time where needed. The new timing plan creates a pedestrian-only signal phase, stopping vehicles long enough to allow pedestrians sufficient time to cross safely. Since vehicles can no longer make left or right turns into your crosswalk, they will be stopped while you cross the street.
The signal will allow traffic to move on University, then the intersecting street will be allowed to go (Figure 1), followed by the pedestrian-only phase (Figure 2). Drivers with a green light won’t have to wait for the crosswalk to clear before they can go.
For example, under current operations, drivers turning left from Nagle Street onto University must wait for a break in the steady stream of pedestrians crossing near the Mitchell Physics Building. Typical signal timings allow vehicles to move in the same direction as pedestrians, but the large number of pedestrians crossing University at that intersection limits the number of left-turning vehicles to about four per cycle. The new phasing will let more cars turn left with the same amount of green signal time because they don’t have to wait for the pedestrians.
Figure 3 shows the usual signal operation at an intersection where pedestrians (the yellow arrows) cross with parallel vehicular movement (the black arrows). Notice the conflict points where the yellow and black arrows cross? That is the point where the vehicular traffic must yield to the pedestrians, which slows down traffic and leads walkers to worry about drivers yielding.
No one wins in that situation.
The separate pedestrian phase creates some delay for vehicles on University, increasing the average travel time from Wellborn Road to South College Avenue by about one minute.
But it’ll still be faster than what it’s been during construction.
About the Blogger
Troy Rother is in his 16th year as the city’s traffic engineer. He previously served two years as a transportation engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation and two years with Wilbert Smith Associates. Troy earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M and is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
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