By Troy Rother, City Traffic Engineer
Few things are more frustrating than being stuck in seemingly endless traffic.
If you’ve driven down University Drive in Northgate in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably faced extraordinarily long wait times. A soon as you go through a green light, the next light turns red. At times, it takes 15 or 20 minutes to travel a single mile.
Let me assure you, we share your frustration and apologize deeply for the inconvenience.
Allow me to explain what’s behind all the chaos. It won’t ease your frustration, but at least you’ll know what’s going on.
Our contractor activated the reconstructed Northgate traffic signals on Aug. 22. Regrettably, the signal contractor didn’t have his subcontractors present for the activation as the city had directed. As a result, the detection systems didn’t function properly, which caused the traffic signal to give the maximum green time for all approaches — even if a vehicle wasn’t present on that approach.
Rest assured we’re working diligently with the subcontractors to correct the problem. We’ve developed coordinated timing plans for the corridor and are installing them this week. We’re also working on camera activation, emergency vehicle recognition, and getting the signals to talk to one another.
That said, it’s essential to keep in mind that the focus of the entire project is pedestrian safety in an area bustling with thousands of students. Recent pedestrian accidents in the area – including several tragic fatalities – led the city to work with the university and the Texas Department of Transportation to make necessary changes.
The good news is that we expect to have the final timings installed the week of Sept. 9. The complex project was supposed to be finished months ago, but weather and utility conflicts created numerous delays.
When fully implemented, the signal timings will have an exclusive pedestrian-only phase for walking and cycling traffic to cross University Drive or the minor roadway at the intersection. During this time, all vehicular traffic will be stopped, including right-turning vehicles.
The pedestrian-only phase will undoubtedly create delays for motorists, but benefits include a safer situation for pedestrians and no pedestrian conflicts for vehicles attempting to turn onto University Drive. For example, we observed traffic at the Nagle intersection this week and saw 12 vehicles turning left onto University instead of the usual four because the vehicles didn’t have to wait for pedestrians to cross during motorists’ green light.
Our overriding goal will always be to operate and maintain a safe and efficient transportation system. Unfortunately, the complexities involved sometimes create frustrations and inconveniences for us all. We appreciate your patience and understanding.
About the Blogger
Troy Rother has been College Station’s city traffic engineer since 2003. He previously served as an engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation and in the private sector with Wilbur Smith Associates. Troy earned bachelor’s (1997) and master’s (1998) degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M.
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By Troy Rother, City Traffic Engineer
The City of College Station Traffic division on Monday will begin installing new controllers on the city’s 78 traffic signals. The project is expected to take about two weeks and will include new communication equipment and software.
During implementation, please obey traffic control and warning devices, and remember that dark signals — those not switching from green to yellow to red – are treated as four-way stop intersections under state law.
The signal work will typically be done nights and mornings when traffic is lightest. The signals will be flashing while the controller is being replaced and other equipment is installed.
Have you ever asked that question while sitting at a red light? Traffic signals are frequent targets of verbal abuse, especially when they are on the blink (pun intended!). And you always seem to catch that red light when you’re late for an important appointment.
How hard can it be to make these things work right, anyway?
Keeping our traffic lights maintained and operating efficiently is a bigger job than you might think. The City of College Station’s Traffic Division maintains and operates 70 traffic signals, 50 pedestrian/school zone flashers, more than 12,000 traffic signs and over 100 miles of long-line pavement markings.