It just seems like traffic signals stay red forever

We open this week’s installment of Ask the Road Warrior with a query from loyal reader Royce, who prefers using city streets rather than freeways when traveling the valley:

“At what intersections are two or three of the longest traffic light sequences so I can try to avoid them?

That’s a question all Southern Nevada drivers have wondered at some point – usually while we’re idling at an intersection, waiting … and waiting … and waiting for our interminable red light to change.

Adrienne Packer of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, the agency that coordinates the operation of valley traffic signals, has an explanation, as well as a quasi-answer to Royce’s question:

“The length of signals varies, depending on traffic volume, number of lanes, day of the week, time of day, land use and proximity to adjacent traffic signals. There is no set cycle length for all intersections.

“However, primary arterials such as Sahara Avenue, Rainbow Boulevard and Eastern Avenue are some of the valley’s most well-traveled, and during peak hours motorists will experience longer signal lengths to keep traffic moving efficiently. Signal cycles are shorter during nonpeak hours and on weekends when traffic tends to be lighter.

“Typically, the longest a motorist will wait at a red light is approximately 140 seconds.”

Is it just Royce and the Road Warrior, or doesn’t it seem a lot longer?

Patrick and his wife are having a disagreement, but instead of appearing on “Dr. Phil,” they come to the Road Warrior: “When you’re at a stoplight and the sign by the traffic signal has an arrow pointing to the left and states ‘Left Turn Only,’ I say you can only turn left and not make a U-turn. My wife disagrees and says you can make a U-turn because there’s no sign prohibiting it. What is the definition of ‘only’ in this situation? Am I taking it too literally?”

Even Dr. Phil has to check with an expert occasionally. So the Road Warrior went to the Metropolitan Police Department, where officer Laura Meltzer provided the literal answer: “The ‘Left Turn Only’ sign implies you have to make a left turn in some form – either a traditional left-hand turn or a U-turn. A U-turn is only prohibited where signage says that’s the case.”

Karl wants to know what gives with what he says are various maximum speeds posted for area school zones: “I’ve seen 15 mph, 20 mph and 25 mph. What’s wrong with using 20 mph throughout, like every other place I’ve ever been does?”

While consistency would seem to make sense, what Karl is seeing is not the reality of the situation, says Diana Paul of the city of Las Vegas.

“School zone and school crossing zone speed limits are established under state law. School zones are 15 mph and are areas that are immediately adjacent to a school. School crossing zones are 25 mph and are locations away from school property that have been designated along a ‘suggested route’ for children to use on their way to school.”

Do what the Road Warrior does, Karl, and play it safe by driving 15 mph through all school-related zones.

As traffic congestion continues to build in the sprawling southwest valley, Andrew inquires: “Are there any plans to widen Durango Drive between Blue Diamond Road and Windmill Lane?

Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin has the answer, or as much of one as there is at this point:

“There are plans to widen to six lanes. The bid is expected to go out next year, although no date has been set.”

Bryce is curious about two large metal pillars that have been installed eastbound and westbound on Warm Springs Road, near Paradise Road and Interstate 215: “Since the pillars appeared a few months ago, I haven’t seen any activity. Do you know what they’re for?”

According to Damon Hodge of the Nevada Department of Transportation, who checked with a Clark County consultant on the project, “The pillars are for the upcoming installation of an over-height protection of the Warm Springs Bridge – in other words, a protection from vehicles that exceed height restrictions. The clearances for the structure’s falsework, or temporary structure that serves as a placeholder until the main structure is built, are being calculated by engineers.

“When those clearances are finalized, a hard crash beam will be installed on those pillars before the structure. These beams will span travel lanes in both directions and be set inches below the clearance elevation. So, if a vehicle traveling on Warm Springs is tall enough to potentially strike the bridge, these beams will act as an early warning system, allowing the driver to stop and detour accordingly.”

Al would like to know where the powers-that-be get off – pun intended – deciding the Interstate 15 southbound offramp onto St. Rose Parkway should have a “recommended” exit speed of only 30 mph: “This is a long, high-speed exit ramp that should be at least 45 mph, better 50 mph. If someone really slowed to 30 mph, he or she would likely be rear-ended.”

If not rear-ended, angrily tailgated all the way up to the light.

Truth is, exit ramp signs are advisory (or cautionary), not mandatory, the Transportation Department’s Hodge tells us: “For this ramp, the advisory would be for the curves that are closer to St. Rose, as well as the splits for eastbound and westbound St. Rose that follow.”

■■■

NOTE: The Road Warrior will be on vacation next week. Answers to your questions will resume in two weeks.

If you have traffic questions or gripes, email them to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please be specific, and include your phone number. Not all questions can be answered in print. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior.

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