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Ask Dr. Delay: Sometimes the traffic light is just not right

The persistent bugaboo of long-lasting red lights keeps the Doc's mailbox full. As we have previously discussed, oftentimes the issue is that traffic signal timing is designed to favor the most heavily traveled directions, so the road with the lighter load will have a longer red light.

While that makes sense, it still steams a lot of folks sitting at those longer red lights. Sometimes, however, the long wait is not by design but indeed a case of a red light gone rogue, so keep those e-mails coming.

Here's a note from reader Debora Raszetnik, who says her daily commute to work at 3:30 a.m. takes her east on 102nd Avenue/Bryan Dairy Road. She's noticed the cycle of the light at 102nd Avenue and Seminole Boulevard has recently changed so she is idling for an unusually long time.

"It used to be on-demand at that time of night. Now it's faster for me to make a right and then a U-turn. And why do I usually have to stop at Belcher when no one is there? And why does nonexistent northbound traffic always get a left turn-signal when nobody is there? It used to take me 20 minutes to get to work with no more than two minutes sitting at lights. Now I spend at least twice that."

We passed Raszetnik's questions along to Ken Jacobs, Pinellas County's signal operations manager. Jacobs looked into it and found several vehicle detection sensors were malfunctioning. Workers are installing new sensors, which should correct the problem.

Another traffic light query came to us from Jim Thomas of Largo. Thomas has noted that the new signal at Lake Avenue SE and Ulmerton Road just east of the railroad crossing is not at all in synch with the traffic lights east and west of the intersection.

"It changes signals twice as often as the other two, creating unnecessary traffic congestion. I feel this is not necessary due to the volume of traffic that exits Lake Avenue compared to the intersections at Ulmerton Road/Starkey Road and Ulmerton Road/Largo Mall."

We passed this one along to Jacobs as well, who told us the traffic signal operations folks have made minor modifications to the signal since the installation of a left-turn arrow for eastbound traffic and will complete an overall re-timing of the entire intersection shortly.

•••

Update:

Reader Rick Carson is among dozens of readers who contacted the Doc about last week's column regarding the new signal at the intersection of east/west 54th Avenue S (also known as the Pinellas Bayway/State Road 682), which takes traffic to and from the beaches and the mainland, and north/south State Road 679 (also known as Pinellas Bayway S), which takes motorists to and from Tierra Verde and Fort De Soto Park.

Motorists leaving Tierra Verde and heading toward St. Petersburg have long been accustomed to the prohibition on making right turns at the red light. Happily, the new traffic signal allows motorists to make a right turn on a red signal after coming to a full stop unless the "do not turn right" sign at the intersection is illuminated. This sign is illuminated when pedestrians wishing to cross at the intersection activate it.

Carson wrote: "Drivers are still not turning on red based on habit and history. Drivers need to know the situation has changed and the current signage is inadequate because it will only cause road rage among drivers uncertain of what the new rules are at the intersection — those who know we can now turn on red and those who think the old rules apply. I think there needs to be a new sign added that right on red is now allowed unless the overhead neon sign is on."

The good news is that Kris Carson (no relation to our reader) of the state Department of Transportation says a new sign will be installed that reads "Right on red arrow after turn," which should bring some clarity.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

E-mail Dr. Delay at docdelay@yahoo.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.

Ask Dr. Delay: Sometimes the traffic light is just not right 04/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 4:30am]
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