Red or green, not all traffic signal timing treated equally

We’ve all sat at busy intersections, waiting for the traffic light to turn green.

Some streets seem to get more green time than others, which might seem unfair. In other instances, the preference goes to drivers making a left turn.

It’s a frustrating situation for motorists trying to predict a signal’s cycle, but not every intersection is treated equally.

Generally, there’s a method to the madness when it comes to traffic signal sequencing and timing, said Brian Hoeft, director of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s traffic management center.

Hoeft oversees the engineers who control traffic signal timing across Clark County, while also monitoring traffic patterns captured on 600 cameras mounted on local freeways and streets.

Anita from Henderson wanted to know how drivers can predict which light will turn green first.

That all depends on where you’re driving, and when.

A combination of factors helps determine traffic signal timing, including pedestrian activity, street width and the average number of vehicles passing through an intersection on any given day, Hoeft said. Differences are broken down further during weekdays and weekends, along with morning and evening commutes.

Traffic engineers carefully study the information to decide when the priority should be given to motorists driving straight through an intersection, and when preference should be given to those making a left turn.

“This mainly has to do with moving platoons of vehicles through several consecutive green lights,” Hoeft said. “To make this happen, at one light we may need to run the left turn first, and sometimes we need to run it last to make everything fit.”

And then there are the cases when you might see a green light trigger for both a left turn and a straight lane on the same side of the street. Intersection geometry is factored in those instances, Hoeft said.

Grand plans for Grand Teton

Richard from Las Vegas wanted to know if any improvements are planned for Grand Teton Drive, between Fort Apache and Oso Blanca roads.

“It is narrow and lined with boulders,” Richard wrote in an email to the Road Warrior.

Las Vegas city officials are planning some pretty big improvements for Grand Teton, but you’re going to have to wait for a couple of years.

Designs are underway for an upgrade along Grand Teton between Fort Apache and El Capitan Way, including a bridge overpass at U.S. Highway 95, Las Vegas city spokeswoman Margaret Kurtz said.

The improvement plan was halted during the recession, but construction is expected to finally start in 2019 — if the money is allocated.

“We will need to evaluate next year what funds might be available for the construction,” Kurtz said.

Lane elimination not an option

Jerry from Henderson recently spotted a nasty car accident at Eastern Avenue and Pecos Ridge Parkway and observed it may have been caused by the configuration of the left turn pocket for drivers headed north at the intersection.

“During the morning rush hour, the left turn lane gets backed up and blocks the regular traffic lane,” Jerry said. “The left turn option should be eliminated for safer driving because accidents have happened here for a long time.”

Henderson city officials are drawing up plans to improve that intersection, but eliminating the left turn lane is not an option.

Plans call for lengthening the left-turn pocket from eastbound Pecos Ridge to northbound Eastern, Henderson city spokeswoman Kim Becker said. It’s unclear when the project will be completed.

Rough road

Paul from Las Vegas is among several readers who pointed out that the road is pretty rough along Maryland Parkway and on Paradise Road, between Twain and Tropicana avenues on the east end of the valley.

And, like a lot of us, Paul wants to know if Clark County plans to fix the problem.

County spokesman Dan Kulin said improvements are expected sometime next year for those sections of Maryland and Paradise.

Signal request will be studied

Nancy from Las Vegas wanted to know whether the county planned to install a traffic signal at Twain and Eastern avenues in the east valley.

Kulin said the county wasn’t planning on it, but traffic engineers will study whether a signal is needed at this intersection.

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow @RJroadwarrior on Twitter.

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