Traffic signals need some fine tuning

Friday, November 23, 2001

With several years of Transportation Trust Fund street improvements under its belt, Cape Girardeau can proudly point to new streets and improved streets that have made driving in the city easier and safer.

As streets are built and upgraded, there are other improvements that follow. One of these is installing permanent, easy-to-see traffic signals at intersections where temporary lights once hung from wires. And just about every traffic signal has sensors under the pavement to trigger light changes to keep up with traffic flow.

But some of the new signals still either rely on timers or are poorly programmed to change with traffic demand. For example, the signal at Broadway and West End Boulevard stays green for Broadway traffic long after all the cars on that street have gone through the intersection. Meanwhile motorists on West End wait -- sometimes impatiently -- for the signal to change.

The same is true at intersections like Broadway and Sprigg Street. Again, even though there is no traffic on Broadway, vehicles on Sprigg must wait -- and wait -- for the light to change.

And some signals stay green for long periods of time for traffic in one direction while cross traffic must try to get through an intersection before the signal turns red again in a very short amount of time.

In addition to street improvements, new signals and well-marked lanes, the city is about to embark on another improvement that will enhance safety and save money at the same time. New light bulbs that use less electricity and give off brighter light will be installed, saving the city thousands of dollars a year. In addition, push buttons are being installed so anyone on foot trying to cross a busy intersection can let the traffic signal's sensors know a pedestrian is waiting to cross.

Both of these are good enhancements for traffic signals.

But the hundreds of motorists who go through some of Cape Girardeau's busiest intersections, many on a daily basis, would like to see the traffic sensors fully implemented and properly adjusted to change the lights to match traffic flow.

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