Pioneer Way light may have detection problem


The in basket: Dan Godeke writes to say that he thinks the new traffic signal at Highway 3 and Pioneer Way in North Kitsap has a problem. 

“I have been watching the detector loop on Pioneer Way,” he said, “and found that it is not picking up cars consistently. It will sometimes let only three cars go through the light before turning yellow even when a long string of cars are waiting.

“What I have noticed is that if a long truck is one of the ones going through, the light will quickly turn yellow and I think it is because the loop is not detecting the high undercarriage of the trailer.  The other time I notice this is if several cars in a row turn right, they miss going over the loop and again it thinks no other cars are in line.

“Perhaps what is needed is another loop set back about 50 feet or so that it will see cars still in line waiting when one of the above happens.” Dan suggested.

The out basket: Don Anders, head of the Olympic Region signal shop for the state, says, “We will have a crew check this detection system out, but we normally do not have trouble detecting trucks.”  

He said they may have to adjust the gap time, meaning the period of time, often about three seconds, that tells a traffic signal’s detectors that no more traffic is at the signal, prompting it to turn the light red. They call it “gapping out.”

“It’s important that drivers always stay in the center of the lane, this is the most sensitive area or detection zone,” Don added. “Right turners will sometimes get off center and create this gap out problem.

“On our signals we have advance loops (behind the stop bar loops) on the mainline, but we do not have these on the side road approaches. This is done for two reasons,” he said, “first is the approach speeds are much slower, and second these loops would be outside of our right of way and sometimes on private property.”

I’m glad this came up, because I often see right turners dawdle  in the through lane before moving over, not getting to the through lane detectors but keeping the traffic behind them from getting there before the light gaps out.

Drivers unaware of the concept of gap time should be aware of it as a courtesy to those behind them trying to make the light.


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