Posts tagged “Troy Rother

What’s the deal with the signal timing on University?

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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University Drive pedestrian upgrades near completion

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.

Figure 1

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.

Figure 2

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.

Figure 3

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.

Gig ‘em!

 


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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