The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Melissa Slager | streetsmarts@heraldnet.com
Published: Monday, May 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Downtown Everett's stoplight timing irritates driver

Mike Fricke of Clinton writes: I have been driving to downtown Everett for years now commuting from Whidbey Island to work. I take Mukilteo Boulevard to Rucker Avenue and then to the corner of Wetmore Avenue and California Street where I park.

Once I leave Rucker, I'm mystified by the timing of the stoplights. I currently head up Hewitt from Rucker -- the Hoyt and Colby lights run about a second apart but as the latter turns green the Wetmore light goes red. I used to come up California, but as soon as Hoyt goes green Colby goes red.

Nothing is timed.

Is there a rhyme or reason to the stoplight timing in town or is it random? I would think a main drag like Hewitt would have the lights sequenced so you could run all the way east with out stopping once you got going.

Tim Miller, traffic engineer for the city of Everett, responds: All the traffic signals in downtown Everett inside the area bounded by Rucker, Broadway, and Everett and Pacific avenues are coordinated to give preference to pedestrians and allow break points for drivers parking in the business core.

On the other hand, signals on the arterials along the downtown perimeter (Rucker Avenue, Broadway, Everett and Pacific) all are coordinated to move the largest number of vehicles with the fewest number of stops.

Hewitt Avenue falls within the first coordination routine described above. The cycle length -- the time it takes to serve all movements at each intersection -- is 51 seconds, which is designed to minimize delay for pedestrians.

The signals on Hewitt downtown are programmed to move a driver through two intersections at a time before having to stop for up to 25 seconds for sidestreet traffic.

When the coordination is working properly, for drivers heading eastbound on Hewitt, the signals at Hoyt and Colby will turn green at the same time. While this is happening the signals at Wetmore and Rockefeller will turn red. The signals at Wetmore and Rockefeller will turn green 25 seconds later while at the same time the signals at Oakes and Lombard (if there is a pedestrian waiting) will turn red. This pattern continues to Broadway. The city worked closely with the Downtown Everett business group to agree on this coordination design.

The pattern is maintained by electronic time clocks in each traffic signal controller. After receiving Mr. Fricke's inquiry we checked those clocks and found some of them had drifted from the correct time. This would account for the poor coordination that Mr. Fricke noted -- we thank him for reporting the problem. We have corrected the time clock issue so the signals along Hewitt are now operating as intended.

We recommend that anyone wishing to drive between Broadway and Rucker with the fewest number of stops use Pacific Avenue or Everett Avenue. The signals on these streets are set up to move traffic.

As a side note, we are replacing all 175 traffic signal controllers in the city. When that is completed we will connect them to a new central computer, so eventually the problem of the errant time clocks will be eliminated. Meanwhile, we appreciate the public letting us know if some traffic signals don't seem to be operating correctly.



E-mail us at stsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence. Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

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