A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Signal issue: “Old yellow or red…”

Written December 18th, 2013 by Hasso Hering
A windshield view of the underpass on Dec. 17.

A windshield view of the underpass on Dec. 17.

So, for lack of a more exciting topic at the moment, back to the traffic signals at Ninth Avenue and Lyon Street under Albany’s Pacific Boulevard overpass. As you can see here, another episode of waiting at the light on Dec. 17 yielded another snapshot of someone coming through the underpass after the signal on Ninth has turned to green.
What’s going on, I asked Ron Irish, the city transportation systems analyst who knows more about Albany traffic than anyone else. These are state highway signals, and Irish has asked ODOT about them. The answer from ODOT is that the lights’ timing is fine, even featuring a brief interval of all red.

Irish’s conclusion: “If a driver waiting on Ninth gets a green and sees a (northbound) vehicle already under the overpass, depending on their speed that NB driver entered on either an old yellow or a red signal.”

So why do we see this so often under the underpass? Irish again: “My feeling is that the design of the intersection together with the fact that it’s approaching capacity during peak hours contributes to the high incidence of red-light running. Unlike other signalized intersections, in this one a driver continuing on through a yellow/red light isn’t running much of a risk of having an angle crash.”

Unless, and this is just my opinion, a driver on Ninth is in a great hurry and has snappy car that gets off the line at speed the instant his light turns green. (hh)


7 responses to “Signal issue: “Old yellow or red…””

  1. Guy March says:

    Seems a couple of people with stop watches could find out the truth.

  2. Rich Kellum says:

    No doubt about it, one day we will have to set up dual cameras taking pictures in real time so the two can be viewed together

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    A simple test may be to take a friend along. One of you on the Ninth St side, the other where you took the above picture. With your phones (or walkie-talkies?) have a conversation: “OK Hasso – the light *just* turned yellow/red – what do you see?” If the light on Ninth shows yellow or red – and you see green — the Ninth St driver is 100% at fault IMO.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      We did just that some years ago when the newspaper was trying to support the claim of a driver that he got an undeserved ticket for running a red light. We could detect no fault with the timing of the lights. What’s puzzling is that it is so common to see traffic under the underpass when Ninth Avenue has a green light. But Ron Irish explained it persuasively in his response to me.

  4. Jim Clausen says:

    There’s an easy answer to this problem… Have Hasso take a different route…

    Seriously though, going downhill to a stop light that isn’t visible until you’re right at the very end, tends to make people go through yellow lights a little later than they would normally. Seems to me that a slight timing delay on the offending side would solve the problem. Having both intersections red for a couple of split seconds would solve the problem and cause fewer collisions at the intersection.

    On the other hand, if Hasso would just find another route we wouldn’t be inundated with stories about this intersection…

    • Hasso Hering says:

      I would, but this happens to be one of the two intersections you have to go through to go anywhere in Albany. (The other one is Santiam and Pacific.) Second, there is no “going downhill” involved here, as a closer look at the photos should bear out. (hh)

      • Jim Clausen says:

        Actually Hasso, the ramp behind the driver heading “northbound” in the photo, does have a “going downhill” feel to it. You can’t see the ramp in the photo – but that is what I was referring to – a closer look at the photo provided does one no good. When exiting from hwy 99, there’s a gradual wall on the left of the ramp that gets taller as you approach the intersection. The ramp also grades “down” to go under the bridge from hwy 99. Both the wall on the left of the ramp and the down grade give a very real feeling of “going down”. Having a light at the end of the downhill ramp just prior to a blind sweeping curve under a bridge is not good for visability or for drivers to estimate timing for a light. Again, a delay in the timing of the lights would solve the problem…


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