Traffic

Nobody likes a short green light, especially when it’s for a left turn on a busy road

Some folks are complaining that the left-turn arrow from South 56th Street onto South Orchard Street, seen at upper left, is cycling too quickly. Traffic columnist Candice Ruud investigates.
Some folks are complaining that the left-turn arrow from South 56th Street onto South Orchard Street, seen at upper left, is cycling too quickly. Traffic columnist Candice Ruud investigates. Staff writer

Q: When you’re driving west on South 56th Street and turning south onto South Orchard Street in Tacoma, why is that green left-turn arrow suddenly so short?

A: A reader who frequently drives in that area said that recently the light has been shortened so that only four or five cars can make the left turn onto South Orchard Street before it changes.

I asked the city officials about this intersection on Thursday (Nov. 2), and they said that South 56th Street has been under construction since July, the result of a project between the cities of University Place and Tacoma.

The project includes improvements in Tacoma between South Washington and South Orchard streets, and in University Place between South Orchard Street and 67th Avenue West along Cirque Drive. The result of the work will be new pavement, sidewalks, landscaping and improvements to traffic signals, the city said. That work is scheduled to be completed by this spring.

City spokeswoman Stacy Ellifritt said the intersection is currently “without pedestrian or vehicle detection devices” — meaning that the traffic signal is programmed to a standard amount of green time for each pedestrian and vehicle direction of travel.

But there’s good news that will likely result in changes to the timing of the lights, she said.

The contractor is working on a tight schedule to finish installing new signal equipment within the next couple weeks. At that time, Public Works traffic signal technicians will program the traffic signal to optimize the timing of the lights.

Before new equipment is installed, Public Works will review the current timing plan and will make tweaks to improve it as needed, Ellifritt said.

Other useful information:

There will be an open house featuring information on the Tacoma Link Extension on Wednesday (Nov. 8), from 5 to 7 p.m., at Evergreen State College’s Tacoma campus at 1210 6th Ave. At the open house, folks will be see the design of the station platforms, track and station names; learn about what to expect during construction; review the final design of the Operations and Maintenance facility; meet Kenji Stoll, the local artist for the project; and hear about next steps.

In case you didn’t know, the Tacoma Link Extension will extend Tacoma’s light rail line 2.4 miles from the Theater District through the Stadium Way and Hilltop neighborhoods to Martin Luther King Jr. Way and South 18th Street. Sound Transit says design of the project is nearly complete, with construction scheduled to begin fall 2018.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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