Pedestrians throw off timing of traffic signal

Some problems cannot be solved. They can only be managed.

This is true in life. Carbs vs. fat, for example. Dying slowly by living a gentle life, or dying quickly by burning the candle at both ends. Neither answer is satisfying, but there is not much we can do about it. We try to find just the right balance and we deal with whatever comes.

And so it goes with traffic control. New roads benefit lots of people, but they require compromises. The taking of land, the financial cost. And traffic lights, too, require balance. Pedestrians vs. vehicles, busy roads vs. parking lot exits. You get the point.

Sherree got me thinking about this chess game when she asked for help.

“When pulling out of Walmart on Boulder Highway and Texas Avenue, when the red light changes to green (for a left turn) we barely get three cars through,” she wrote in an email. “I have had to sit through four light cycles so that I can make a left turn onto Boulder Highway. This is absolutely crazy.”

She said it gets worse: Panhandlers hang out there, and that makes the wait very uncomfortable. As the holidays approach, she said, the whole thing is only going to get worse.

I sent Sherree’s complaint to the Regional Transportation Commission, which has a department that manages the traffic light timing in the valley.

Angela Castro, an agency spokeswoman, said technicians went out to take a look at the light. They found that the intersection has lots of pedestrians.

“When pedestrians were activating the walk signal, the timing of the whole intersection was set to recover quickly, taking several seconds from each direction of traffic until coordination was back to where it should be,” she wrote in an email. “You can imagine that with cycle after cycle of pedestrian activity, the signal coordination was having a hard time recovering.”

She said technicians adjusted the timing so “a few more cars” get through before the light turns red again. They are going to keep an eye on things as the holiday shopping season approaches, too.

Jeanne wrote in with some praise for Clark County’s public works department. She said they are great at cleaning up the debris on Hollywood Boulevard near Sunrise Mountain after every storm.

“And speaking of Hollywood,” she continued, “several years ago we had heard that there were plans to make Hollywood a four-lane street from Vegas Valley to Lake Mead. What ever has happened to that idea?”

Dan Kulin, a Clark County spokesman, said the plan actually calls for widening Hollywood to four lanes all the way from Charleston Boulevard to Lake Mead Boulevard. So that’s nice.

But the county hasn’t obtained all the land they need to do this. That sort of thing takes time. They are making progress, though, and he said the project should be finished within the next three years.

In the meantime, some good news: They’re going to repave that portion of Hollywood next year and add some bike lanes.

Sandy noticed a mess brewing on South Jones Boulevard out near Sunset Road.

“About a year ago a pedestrian crosswalk with solar-powered flashing lights was installed” out there, she wrote. “A good idea, as this is the only pedestrian crossover between Hacienda and Russell Road.”

But the problem is that the lights for the crosswalk flash constantly instead of just when a pedestrian is using the crosswalk. This creates a boy-who-cried-wolf problem. When the lights are flashing all the time, no one pays attention to them. That makes it even more dangerous for pedestrians, who assume properly using a crosswalk makes them safer.

Kulin, the county spokesman, said that crosswalk originally had pedestrian-activated lights. They were solar-powered. But then the setup broke. Rather than replacing it with the same thing again, which would probably break again, they used the one that is there now, which does flash all the time.

But he said they are redesigning it now and will have a permanent fix with a red light within a year or so. Until then, folks, be safe.

The folks over at Walker Furniture sent an email out the other day noting that the store on Martin Luther King Boulevard is not going to close.

Apparently, one of the local TV news outlets reported that everything on Martin Luther King between the Spaghetti Bowl and Charleston Boulevard was being torn down because of Project Neon, the massive Interstate 15 widening project.

That’s not true. Everything between Alta Drive and Charleston is being wiped out, but only some stuff north of Alta. Walker said their retail store won’t be affected, though they will lose some warehouse space.

Got a transportation question, comment or gripe? Ship it off to roadwarrior@review journal.com. Or tweet to @RJroadwarrior.

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