ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Alongside the new bus-only lanes, drivers are starting to notice the new traffic signals at intersections all along Central Avenue.
Now, some of those signals are causing traffic back-ups and frustration because of how of how little time drivers are given to make a left turn.
It’s a problem that Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) contractors have acknowledged and promise they’ll fix soon.
One of the strongest examples of the left turn light timing issue is at the intersection of Central Avenue and Louisiana Boulevard. For some drivers, a left turn from Central to Louisiana is almost akin to a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment.
“They’re really short, they don’t let you get across,” a driver said to KRQE News 13 while attempting to turn left on to northbound Louisiana. “They only allow one or two cars.”
KRQE News 13 timed the protected left turn (left arrow) light on Tuesday, finding the green cycle only stayed active for about five seconds, before shifting to yellow for about three seconds, then back to red.
The “protected turn signal” is important for a lot of drivers because it’s the only way they can turn left to cross the ART bus lanes in the middle of the road. To keep drivers from accidentally turning in front of the ART busses, drivers are no longer allowed to turn across the ART bus lanes unless they have a protected turn signal, which is signified by a left-pointing arrow.
Comparatively, the through-traffic signals for Central and Louisiana usually stayed green for about 30 to 40 seconds at a time.
The same short time left turn signal issue has also been reported by drivers at the intersection of Central and Carlisle Boulevard in Nob Hill.
City contractors say it’s a problem and one that will be fixed.
“Once those barricades are all pulled, you should see that improve,” said Ed Potthoff of the left turn signalization issue.
An engineer for the private company “HDR Inc.,” Potthoff has overseen much of the engineering design of the ART project. He’s also the project’s “Engineer of Record.”
Potthoff tells KRQE News 13 that nearly all of the traffic poles and signals in ART’s path on Central have been replaced with new technology.
“As part of the upgrade to the transit corridor, we had to upgrade all of the signal equipment including controllers signal heads, and masts to make them long enough to actually hang over the ART lane, so all of this infrastructure is new,” said Potthoff.
As construction continues and turn lanes are at times blocked, some of the new traffic signals, like Louisiana and Central, remain on automated cycles with short timing. Engineers call it “recall mode” – an automatic cycle that makes the intersection give green lights to both turning and through traffic lanes without requiring cars to trigger the light by running over the usual “inductive loop” in the road.
Potthoff says the city has received feedback from drivers about short timing at several lights.
“We are taking and logging all of the complaints that we’re getting on 311 or questions on signal timing, and making sure that we address them all individually,” said Potthoff.
As the orange barrels clear from each intersection, Potthoff says the new signal technology will begin to automatically detect traffic and extend or shorten green light timing based on traffic load. For example, the traffic signals should be able to approximate how many cars are waiting for a specific light, then time the length of the light accordingly.
“In rush hour, it will actually dedicate more time to the through movements,” said Potthoff, speaking of traffic on Central Avenue.
Potthoff also tells KRQE News 13 that that the new signals up and down Central Avenue are also on a fiber optic connectionfor the first time, allowing the city to remotely change signal timing in the future, if necessary.
Some drivers are optimistic.
“They’ll get it straightened out,” another driver told KRQE News 13 on Tuesday.
Crews were out working on light timing Wednesday at Central and Coors. They’re hoping to target the rest of the lights over the next few weeks.