Synchronize traffic signals to help commuters, reader says

Q: I’m writing this morning to inquire about the situation I face every morning of the work week – which I can only describe as an engineering mess. The exit for Soquel Avenue from southbound Highway 1 is a constant traffic hot spot and sets the stage for very dangerous driving conditions. Quite regularly, the traffic for the exit is backed up down the freeway and cars are pulled over into the shoulder waiting to exit. What makes matters worse is coming around the exit ramp to see that the majority of the traffic is waiting to go right onto Soquel while the lanes that would allow drivers to go forward or left are completely blocked – and the light is green, meaning that cars waiting to exit in that direction are stuck through several cycles of the light changing. And to top it off, people will cut out of the line of traffic to try to get over to the left turn lanes which raises the ire of people waiting in line – read: ‘road rage.’ It seems like the light cycle at the Soquel Avenue/Soquel Drive intersection is partially to blame, along with the design of the off ramp. Does the county have any plans to address this dangerous off ramp? It’s a bad accident waiting to happen. Thanks for your hard work. Regards, Damian DeFalco, via email A: You, and others who use that ramp and intersection, should see some relief soon. Caltrans and the county Public Works Department are working together to help traffic flow better through that interchange, said Jack Sohriakoff, civil engineer with the county. “We are in the final stages of a two-year, $100,000 traffic signal coordination program that includes the Highway 1/Soquel Drive/Soquel Avenue interchange,” he said. “These traffic signals are to be synchronized during the morning and evening commute periods.” As of right now, transportation officials are fine tuning signal timing. “We know the morning peak is quite busy and there are long queues of vehicles exiting Highway 1,” Sohriakoff said. “One of the issues we have to deal with is the close proximity of the two traffic signals on Soquel Avenue and the constant unimpeded flow of free right turns coming off the freeway and going to the Soquel Drive/Soquel Avenue intersection.” One thing Sohriakoff noted was that right turning traffic can move easily through this intersection unless there is a backup at the Soquel Drive/Paul Sweet-Commercial Way signal on the other side of the interchange. The challenge, he said, is balancing the demand of highest traffic flow with minor movements at all the intersections in the area, including pedestrian crossings and transit buses. “Hopefully, everyone who passes through this area will soon notice a marked increase in traffic flow,” he said.
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