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Holiday season mall traffic is awful, but don’t expect Tacoma to change up its intersections

Q: I know it’s probably too late to get one before the holidays, but is there any way to petition the city to add a left-turn signal at the intersection of South 48th Street and Tacoma Mall Boulevard?

When people are trying to turn there, it gets backed up all the way to South 56th Street, and it becomes such a mess. I’m sure the argument is that it’s not busy the other eight months of the year, but could it hurt to make it nice in the most stressful time of year? — Andrew

A: Sorry, Andrew. The city recently looked at this intersection and, citing “typical hourly turning volumes and crash history,” determined that changes to the traffic signals were not needed.

Here’s the meat of it: City staff use traffic count data from a typical day when looking at requests for left-turn modifications or when evaluating existing signal timings. With current funding and staffing being what they are, those changes aren’t made “during peak seasons” unless a request is made or the need is identified.

So you’re out of luck if you, like Andrew, get stuck at that intersection this time of year and were hoping that particular signal would be changed during the two months of holiday madness. You can always do what I do and completely avoid the mall and anything within a half-mile radius until 2018.

In general, though, it doesn’t hurt to ask about signal changes.

According to the city’s Traffic Engineering division, “Left-turn signal enhancements are generally evaluated upon request or during project scoping.” As noted in last week’s column and in the city’s response, you can make a request by contacting TacomaFIRST 311.

The city usually looks at a number of factors in determining whether a left-turn signal change is warranted, including the relative numbers of left-turners versus vehicles that go straight through, crash history and other safety and operational concerns.

So pick up your phones or get on the city’s website: www.cityoftacoma.org/TacomaFIRST311.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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