City addresses worst traffic signals in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- A recent study by the city of Austin's Transportation Department reveals nearly 60-percent of drivers say they are unhappy with the timing of traffic signals.

As a result, the city has hired an engineer whose sole job is to reconfigure the timing of traffic lights so drivers can keep moving. But it can be a tricky job.

"Folks always say can't you just change the signal timing," said Jim Dale, Austin Transportation Department Assistant Director. "One of the things I like to say with that is: if you're going to give someone more green time that means someone else is getting more red time. So there is that balance. Yes, I can give you more green time, but that may be at the expense of a side street."

Each month the Transportation Department reports they receive more than one thousand requests for maintenance on lights. One problem is the significant boost in the number of cars on the road.

"A lot of folks when they're driving during the peak periods, there are just too many cars on the road," said Dale. "The signals cannot process that amount of traffic when everyone is trying to get to downtown or get their kids to school or to their jobs on time."

As a result of the findings from this recent study city engineers have a goal of evaluating at least one-third of the signals each year. The city currently maintains about 950 traffic signals. Those wishing to request an engineer to look at the timing of a signal can call 311.

The intersection at Rustic Rock Drive and Spicewood Springs Road is partially blamed for the death of a 14-year-old boy was hit and killed in northwest Austin earlier this month. Walk Austin, a coalition of community advocates, says part of the issue was the flashing yellow lights at the intersection where the teen was killed.

"Drivers do not always yield the right of way, and it is imperative that we provide safe crossing opportunities for our most vulnerable populations during the most dangerous hours of the day on our most dangerous roadways," stated Walk Austin in a letter sent to the city.

MORE: Parents work to improve dangerous roads for students 

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