WASHINGTON (AP) — Backed up at a traffic light? Frustrated when you hit a red light only a block after driving through a green? Odds are, those traffic signals may need some work.
A report card issued last Wednesday gives the nation an overall grade of a D-minus for traffic signal operation. The study said the inefficiency leads to frustration and unnecessary delays for motorists, wasted fuel and more air pollution, as vehicles constantly stop and go.
“Everyone knows the traffic signals turn red, yellow and green,” said Shelley Row of the Washington-based Institute of Transportation Engineers. “It’s not about them changing colors. It’s about them operating efficiently.”
The report card, prepared by a coalition of transportation groups, was based on self-assessment surveys filled out last fall by 378 traffic agencies in 49 states.
It measured the way traffic agencies manage their systems, review traffic signal timing, maintain an inventory of traffic data and provide adequate staffing.
Among the findings:
n 68 percent said they either have no documented management plan for their traffic signal operation or they simply respond to problem intersections as they happen.
n 71 percent don’t have staff to monitor traffic before and after normal working hours.
n 57 percent said they don’t conduct routine reviews of traffic signals within three years or they only address problems as they arise.
The report card describes a widespread inadequacy of resources for the monitoring and coordinating of traffic signals. It concludes that the nation’s system could receive an “A” grade for $965 million a year.
It also contends that the improvements could lead to less time battling traffic and reductions in fuel consumption and harmful emissions from vehicles.
Many communities have not completed a systemwide retiming of their traffic lights in a decade, said Phil Tarnoff, director of the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology at the University of Maryland.