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Why do traffic patterns at intersections change throughout the day?

Caitlin Dineen


Q Why do traffic patterns at intersections change from day to day and throughout the day? This is really frustrating and dangerous.   One intersection in particular, Shipyard and 17th, changes regularly, which messes up commutes.

A. Don Bennett, Wilmington’s traffic engineer, said traffic signal timing plans are “designed to fit the specific patterns of traffic that approach each intersection during a given time of day.”

This basically means that the lights change to meet the demand and best match the volume of traffic around Wilmington. We all know this city, like any other, has certain ebbs and flows for traffic.

“The alternative to running timing plans tailored to specific traffic patterns would result in a timing plan that does not address peak-hour demand but also would cause excessive off-peak delay,” Bennett said.

If that happens, the timing system will under-perform all times of the day, Bennett said.

“Simply put, there is no one size fits all timing plan that meets all road users’ needs all the time,” he said.

There are several reasons why traffic patterns may change, Bennett said, including: adjusting time required to move all vehicles through an intersection, adjusting timing to split up traffic moving through one intersection to get to another and changing the settings of signals near another signal to ensure they work well together.


Are there plans to adjust the timing of the traffic light at Wrightsville and Independence?

Are there plans to install traffic lights at the Green Meadows and Market Street intersection?

User-contributed question by:
Chris D

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