A constant cycle

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018

For most motorists and pedestrians in America, the way the traffic lights currently cycle at the busiest intersection in Suffolk is business as usual.

But regular commuters through the intersection at North Main Street and Constance Road were taken aback by the change last week, when they noticed that traffic was flowing and pedestrians were crossing in the same direction at the same time.

For years prior to this change, traffic at the intersection came to a complete stop in all directions so that pedestrians could cross in all directions at the same time. This occurred only when a pedestrian had pressed one of the buttons available at the four corners.

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However, city traffic engineer Robert Lewis said last week, very few intersections in the entire country do things that way.

Larger backups at Constance and Main were becoming the norm when pedestrians pressed the button, aggravating the problem at an intersection that is already quite congested during certain times of the day. During the worst traffic periods, drivers would sometimes sit at the light through two or three cycles before finally making it through. Adding insult to injury, some pedestrians would even press the button and then cross before the “walk” signal, leaving dozens of drivers to fume for 30 seconds while nobody crossed the road.

The new traffic pattern at the intersection has “made a dramatic impact on the operation of traffic,” Lewis told News-Herald reporter Kellie Adamson last week. Having removed a 30-second time slot from the cycle, the change should reduce the amount of time drivers spend sitting at the stoplight.

We support any change the city can make that reduces traffic congestion while at the same time remaining pedestrian-friendly, and it appears this change meets that criteria.

But we do wish the city would be more careful in the future with making major changes to major intersections without first notifying the public. An inattentive motorist who was familiar with the intersection and assumed everything was operating as normally could have caused a serious accident.