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Why you hit every red light on Great Northern Road

Not long ago, SooToday editorialist Dick Peplow called for City Council to fire Chief Administrative Officer Joe Fratesi if he can't get our traffic lights synchronized.

Not long ago, SooToday editorialist Dick Peplow called for City Council to fire Chief Administrative Officer Joe Fratesi if he can't get our traffic lights synchronized.

A report on the issue, prepared by Fratesi and Commissioner of Public Works and Transportation Pat McAuley, is on the agenda for tonight's meeting of City Council.

It turns out that part of the problem is a busted traffic control loop under the pavement at the exit from Cambrian Mall.

"The asphalt and base has failed and destroyed the loop," McAuley says.

"This intersection is operating on a timer which gives minimal time to the mall exit at present, but it is operated independently of the rest of the Great Northern Road signals.

"The mall has been made aware of this problem and is presently tendering for the reconstruction of their entrance, including a new traffic control loop.

"In the meantime, southbound vehicles in the co-ordinated flow can get a red light here, which can cause them to miss the green at the next intersection as well," McAuley says.

And there are other reasons you hit so many red lights along Great Northern Road, some of which City staff say can't be fixed.

The full text of the memos from Fratesi and McAuley follow:

*************************************************************** 2002 10 21

Mayor John Rowswell and Members of City Council, Civic Centre, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

RE: TRAFFIC CONCERNS

Dear Members of City Council:

There has been some public discussion of two traffic issues which require public answers, given that some of the comments appear to be somewhat critical of Traffic Department staff.

Both of these issues have been discussed publicly at Council Meetings in the past, but I have asked Pat McAuley, the Commissioner of Public Works and Transportation to again report with respect to both of these matters.

The first deals with a complaint that there should be a coordinated or synchronization of traffic signals on Great Northern Road.

The second concern is actually a suggestion that all of our signalized intersections go to a flashing mode during the night time as is done in some other jurisdictions.

Attached is the report that I have received from Mr. McAuley dated 2002 10 07 addressing both of these items. A resolution accepting Mr. McAuley's report as information appears in your agenda.

Yours very truly, Joe Fratesi, CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER

************************************************************** 2002 10 07

MEMO TO: J. Fratesi Chief Administrative Officer Civic Centre

SUBJECT: TRAFFIC CONCERNS

Further to your request, I have reviewed the two traffic issues we discussed with our Manager of Traffic.

CO-ORDINATION OF TRAFFIC SIGNALS ON GREAT NORTHERN ROAD

The signal system on Great Northern Road is co-ordinated for southbound traffic since the highest volume of traffic is southbound on a daily basis.

It is not possible to co-ordinate them both directions since there are different distances between signals depending on your direction of travel (Second Line to Northern Avenue southbound is shorter than Willoughby Street to Northern Avenue northbound for example).

Therefore, northbound traffic does not have a co-ordinated signal system.

To add to this, there are also two issues that affect the apparent co-ordination of signals southbound.

Great Northern Road is carrying from 22,000 to 26,000 vehicles daily and at peak hours not all the vehicles in a "platoon" of traffic can fit through a green cycle.

Therefore, during peak hours vehicles experience red cycles southbound due to the sheer volume of traffic on the street.

The second problem, which is only temporary, is the lack of a functioning traffic control loop on the exit from Cambrian Mall.

The asphalt and base has failed and destroyed the loop. This intersection is operating on a timer which gives minimal time to the mall exit at present, but it is operated independently of the rest of the Great Northern Road signals.

The mall has been made aware of this problem and is presently tendering for the reconstruction of their entrance, including a new traffic control loop.

In the meantime, southbound vehicles in the co-ordinated flow can get a red light here, which can cause them to miss the green at the next intersection as well.

NIGHT TIME FLASHING MODE FOR SIGNALIZED INTERSECTION

From time to time we get requests to place certain signal lights on flash during the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. period each day. This is done in some jurisdictions in the United States.

The Ministry of Transportation's position on this in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices is that putting signals in a flashing operation is undesirable.

Both actuated and semi-actuated signals react to vehicles approaching the intersections through the loop detection systems so the waiting time is currently being minimized.

We are aware of several Ontario communities that have tried flashing operations at night, but now have gone back to normal operating modes.

This may be due to liability concerns.

In all traffic issues, consistency is of utmost importance to motorists in order to minimize traffic accidents.

I trust this is satisfactory,

Patrick M. McAuley. P. Eng. Commissioner Public Works and Transportation

************************************************************** How to know what Joe knows

If they're in any sense a mover or a shaker in the Sault, count on it, they're regular readers of SooToday News. One City councillor tells us how Joe Fratesi recently presented him with 10 or 12 pages of material copied from our website. To make sure you always know what Joe knows, click here.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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