The in basket: Patti Mitchell thinks there is something wrong with the traffic detectors on the side streets crossing Highway 305 in Poulsbo and left turn pockets there.
The in-pavement detectors were cut during the lengthy widening of 305 the past two years.
“Well, that work has been completed for several months and the automatic signal system is either not activated or is totally out of adjustment,” says Patti. “For example, one can spend what seems like two minutes waiting to turn left off of 305 onto Liberty without one car ever going by on 305 either way.”
She encounters the same delays on the side streets all along that stretch, she said.
“I see people get frustrated all of the time and some even proceed through a red light after waiting a long time without any cross traffic.”
The out basket: Jim Johnstone and Don Anders of the state’s Olympic Region signal shop say waits that long on Highway 305′s side streets and left turn pockets in Poulsbo are entirely possible, and the signal timing that results in those waits is intentional.
The lights are coordinated with one another to move the maximum amount of traffic through the city. “One of the most important elements of this timing plan is to flush mainline traffic through Poulsbo,” Jim said. ”This is based upon input from the Poulsbo City Council and their desire to coordinate the signals to maximize mainline flow.”
“We warned them they’d see complaints on the side streets,” added Don, but the council asked for the timing scheme that is in place.
Jerry Moore, project engineer on the widening, says, “With the exception of one side street loop at Hostmark, all of the detection along (Highway) 305 through Poulsbo is operational and the signals are operating as intended.
“The signals through Poulsbo are coordinated from 6:45 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. weekdays and 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on weekends,” he said, “and are operating a 120-second cycle length during coordination.
“When the ferry offloads the 120 seconds is not always enough for the traffic demand on the mainline and during non-ferry times the 120 seconds can seem excessive because of the left turn and side street delay,” he said.
Moving in and out of coordination to match ferry traffic pulses, something they tried years ago, resulted in confusion and problems when ferry arrivals were off schedule, Don said.
Outside the hours of coordination, the detectors will react to waiting traffic on the side streets and turn pockets much more quickly, he said.
A primer on signal coordination can be found on line at www.wsdot.wa.gov. Fill in Signal Coordination in the search box. Don also says he’ll be happy to show citizens around the signal shop in Tumwater and explain what they do and how they do it. He’s at (360) 357-2616.