Wide crosswalks make for long waits at traffic lights

I often drive on North Phoenix Road. I have noticed that at the intersection of North Phoenix and Cherry Lane there is a very long traffic light. It makes sense to have long traffic lights at busy intersections such as McAndrews and Biddle, but why on such a thinly traveled instersection? Is there an explanation for this?

— Terry W., no town given

We've certainly sat at plenty of intersections with enough time on our hands to contemplate what's taking so long, so we put on our inquisitive hats (they're never out of arm's reach), and checked with Medford Public Works Director Cory Crebbin.

He couldn't speak about what drives waits at the particular intersection you noted, but he said a wide variety of factors go into the length of a red or green light.

"It depends on where the traffic signal is and the time of day," he said, adding that pedestrians crossing can add to the delay.

He cited pedestrian crossings as a primary delay factor for another oft-complained-about intersection — Crater Lake Highway and Delta Waters.

"The problem with that particular intersection is it's so wide," he said.

Federal mandates require pedestrians be given 31/2 feet per second on crosswalks, and on a roadway close to 100 feet wide a pedestrian can make for a long wait.

"It causes backups and causes a long time for the green light to catch up," he said about that intersection.

Crebbin said the amount of time signals use is based on traffic counts.

"We go out and do traffic counts every two years," he said. "In the morning the traffic patterns at a lot of sites are different from the afternoon peaks."

Other signals at less frequently used roads rely on "traffic loops," magnetic loops that pick up the presence of a car.

"We try to set them (lights) up to stop as few cars as possible," he said.

Despite that level of planning, if you see an issue with a traffic signal, Crebbin said, you can call Public Works and report a problem.

"We can actually look at the signals if they call 541-774-2100," he said. "They can actually bring it up on their computer and see what the signal is doing at that time."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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