The traffic lights on Highway 55 are maddening

photoRail.jpgMany, including myself, have been beneficiaries of the Hiawatha Light Rail line since it opened two years ago.

One thing that continues to stick in my craw is the maddening, un-logical behavior that the traffic lights on highway 55 still exhibit.

When the light rail first started operating, there was a lot of fuss about the traffic lights. They were supposedly tweaked and now they are the best that they can be, according to a story I read in the Strib two years ago.

Well, I don’t think so. Any time a train comes, the lights on 55 turn red and the cross street lights turn green. No matter how long those cars have been sitting there (some not long at all). This grinds things to a standstill on an already crowded highway 55.

The most maddening is when the southbound 55 light turns green with a left turn signal, train comes, then the cross turns green. The northbound never turns green. Once the train gates go down, the southbound again turns green with a turn signal, and finally the northbound turns green. But wait, if another train comes, the same pattern will repeat! Even if there are next to no cars on the cross streets.

I sat in the northbound lane of Hiawatha for 15 minutes and watched this unfold at the 46th street intersection on Thursday.

And if you’ve ever tried to turn left at 26th street coming south out of downtown during rush hour, you may have also been privy to this. I waited for 4 light cycles before that turn signal turned green one time.

Does anybody else think they could tune these lights better?

6 Comments so far

  1. Moe (unregistered) on August 5th, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    I’ve always thought the 55 traffic had it the best. I always get stuck trying to cross on 38th St, going west. When the train comes, the east bound traffic gets a green, but then when the traffic arm goes down, then 55 gets the green. Then another train, and east bound gets the green. And so on. West bound traffic seems to get the shaft.

  2. Kristi (unregistered) on August 5th, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with this post. Ever since the train went in, I have tried to take 55 to various places (Smitten Kitten (which thankfully has moved to Uptown; I’d like to know the story behind that; haven’t been to their new location yet.), Riverview Theater, Minnehaha Park, the Rail Station etc.), and have been burned every time by the stoplights. They generally add about 20-30 minutes to what should be a 10-minute commute from either St. Paul or downtown Minneapolis. So now I think twice before going to those places. Like, “Ooh, let’s go to…oh, never mind. Highway 55.” I’m quite sure I don’t visit things over in that neighborhood as often because there is no easy way to get around 55.

    Who can we complain to?

  3. Heather K (unregistered) on August 5th, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    When I’m in the Hiawatha area, I’m usually coming from downtown and heading toward the Ford Bridge or Minnehaha Park; I have to admit I take Minnehaha Avenue (instead of Hiawatha) to avoid the lights/traffic backup/long waits on Hiawatha. But then, as Bill said, you have to wait through multiple cycles of GREEN ARROW to turn left on 26th to even get to Minnehaha. And after that, there are the lights on Minnehaha Avenue to contend with…you just can’t win:)

  4. Erica (unregistered) on August 5th, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

    I’m no traffic engineer, but they could at least let northbound traffic on 55 go while the train’s going through.

  5. Tipper (unregistered) on August 6th, 2006 @ 12:47 am

    I don’t drive that way a lot, but what maddens me is the use of the solid white light, which is used to alert folks of emergency vehicles, to denote the presence of a train. I’m hearing impaired, so I rely upon those lights to help me realize that emergency vehicles are coming, and it’s really disorienting to see them on all over all the way down 55. You’d think the very blatant stop signals and train crossings would be enough!

  6. Erica (unregistered) on August 6th, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

    Tipper, totally agreed. The first few times I drove that way and saw the white light flash, I looked around for an emergency vehicle, very confused, until the train passed through. And then was still confused. I don’t think that’s appropriate at all.

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