Dear Street Smarts,
Q: The light for cars making a left on to Eaton Street from 7th Avenue lasts forever – or at least it seems like it. However, the light does not usually turn green for the cars making a right unless a car goes straight to activate the censor. To me, it seems that cars coming from Brommer Street are mostly making right turns at this intersection. Is there any way this censor can be fixed?
One more thing, what is the benefit of the straight or right turn only from Clares Street to 41st Avenue? It seems to have created a traffic nightmare – especially during the holidays – when the cars back up horribly at the intersection at Starbucks. This can’t possibly have helped the traffic situation, more like created a worse one. Plus, the right turn only lane is usually empty! What is the point?
Tammy Bagnasco via email
A: As for your question regarding Eaton at 7th, “Typically, traffic engineers institute a ‘delay’ on exclusive right turn lanes with detectors – or censors,” said Jack Sohriakoff, senior civil engineer for county public works. “If right turns on red are allowed it doesn’t make sense to have the traffic signal controller identify the need for a green light if the vehicle has already made it through the intersection.”
Normally, a delay of 7-8 seconds right turning vehicles to stop, then proceed through the intersection before “the traffic signal controller locks onto the detection and goes through the cycle to serve that movement,” he said. “Why serve that movement when the vehicle is already gone?”
Each month, the county inspects and maintains its traffic signals, Sohriakoff explained. The issue you speak of was not identified as a problem during the most recent inspection, he added.
“However, I will inform our maintenance people of the situation so they can check and make sure everything is functioning properly,” he said.
As for Clares at 41st in Capitola, “the changes to eastbound Clares Street to designate the right turn lane for straight and right turn traffic only was done to improve the efficiency of the westbound movement,” said Steve Jesberg, director of Capitola’s public works department. “Prior to the changes, the right hand lane regularly backed up to 40th and Clares intersection as drivers, both those wanting to go north on 41st Avenue and those going straight or turning, used this lane.
The lane configuration change “helped distribute the vehicles to all the lanes,” he continued. “This was a minor change to an extremely congested area. The traffic will continue to back up to 40th Avenue like before, especially during busy periods, but the congestion should be incrementally better.”