The longest red light currently is at Middle Sound Loop Road and Market Street, said Don Bennett, the city’s traffic engineering manager. Its entire cycle is 304 seconds.
“It literally is a five-minute light, and that’s just necessary because when you start looking at Military Cutoff merging at Market Street, and you have a constant stream and demand going out of Wilmington at the end of the day, that cycle has to be twice as long to accommodate that sequentially,” he said.
Technically, that small intersection is not part of the city, but the city maintains it because “it sets up the traffic for Wilmington,” he added.
Bigger intersections don’t always mean longer waits, Bennett said. Sometimes it’s the “simplest signal on the most complicated artery” that causes a long wait.
In that case, one of Wilmington’s top red light waits is at the intersection of College Road and Hurst Drive, next to Cook-Out and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
“The worst case scenario is if a person shows up on Hurst just as it turns red, they’ll wait 134 seconds before it goes green again,” Bennett said.
“Anytime you put a traffic signal into coordination with another one, they have to run the same cycle length. As a general rule, 152 seconds is the longest total cycle on Market Street and College Road in the evenings from 3-6 p.m. The typical cycle in the city, or the longest wait between seeing another green light, is 70 to 80 seconds.”
And if you happen upon a light with a white line sensor, you can be waiting a long time if you stop your car beyond the white line, Bennett said. The sensor could assume you already turned left. One example of a sensored light is the intersection of George Anderson Drive and Carolina Beach Road.
Another lengthy light is the main Monkey Junction intersection of College and Carolina Beach roads. That light will be a 144-second wait in the morning and 152 seconds during rush hour.
When counting traffic lights, the city counts the number of light control cabinets and not the individual lights.There are 198 boxes now, but that will increase to 210 after some signal upgrades.
With about a third of the city’s traffic light upgrades completed, Bennett said the city will have a lot more flexibility in customizing a red light’s wait time, going from six different light cycles to 64 possible cycles.
Date posted: October 23, 2009
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