Council looks at traffic-light timing

Council looks at traffic-light timing

CHAMPAIGN — City council members this week could vote to spend up to $53,000 to update traffic-light timing on the city's busiest roads north of Interstate 74.

Re-timing the traffic lights on North Prospect Avenue and North Neil Street so cars can move through each intersection with as few stops and little delay as possible is not expected to eliminate congestion over the interstate. But city officials think it could ease some of the red-light pains north of Marketview Drive.

The project is scheduled for a vote when the city council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

According to a memo to the council, most of the city's 100 or more traffic signals were evaluated and timed between 1998 and 2007. Typically, lights are re-timed every three to five years, but city staff have had much less time to focus on that since the recession began to take a toll on the city budget in 2008.

Instead of fitting the project into limited in-house staff time, Peoria-based TERRA Engineering would collect the data and re-coordinate the lights at seven intersections along North Prospect Avenue and three on North Neil Street. Another intersection, at Town Center and Moreland boulevards, could be included in the North Neil Street timing group.

Although the timing at many Champaign intersections is between six and 15 years old, the existing timing at some intersections is still effective, according to the memo.

At others, traffic patterns have changed, new signals have been installed or timing changes have been made to adjacent signals — in the case of the area north of I-74, northward commercial expansion has thrown off the timing of traffic signals there.

After taking a look at the area north of I-74, city administrators may recommend that council members next re-examine the downtown area.

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jdmac44 wrote on May 20, 2013 at 8:05 am

I was about to say "Oh thank God!", but then I saw that they're only doing it on the north end.  I know on my commute in the morning that Springfield and Neil and Green and Prospect are pretty bad.  Springfield and Neil backs up into Randolph in the mornings and Neil and Green goes back a couple of blocks.  But North Prospect has needed it for years, Christmas shopping season is a nightmare.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on May 23, 2013 at 11:05 am
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Hey, at least Champaign cares.


Meanwhile, over here in Urbana, another day has passed while the incongruous Main/Broadway & Main/Race Red Light Trap convinced yet another would-be shopper to never again make the mistake of driving through downtown Urbana.



whatithink wrote on May 20, 2013 at 9:05 am

I always wonder why the traffic lights don't flash green when they are getting ready to change to give drivers a warning.  I noticed in Canada, they stay a constant green and then flash green before turning yellow.  A safety feature that couldn't cost a lot.  

jdmac44 wrote on May 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Yes, it would give people more time to get on the gas to beat the red! lol

bburkl969 wrote on May 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I agree, I was hoping it was on the southern part of Champaign as well.  The left-turn arrows are NEVER on in the mornings at Springfield & Neil or at Green & Neil.  Traffic would flow alot better if they were in working order!  The light at First & Springfield is ENTIRELY too long when you are traveling down first, which is where ALOT of U of I employees are traveling....I don't understand why they don't make First St lights synced either!!!


While we are on streets/roads, Leverett Road is TERRIBLE!  It needs repair...alot of traffic traveling down that road and it's awful! 

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm

More of Champaign Yellow.  Don't blink during the change from green to red.  Add cameras for video fines to follow.  More reasons to use the MTD, or a bicycle.

Feltrino wrote on May 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm

"More reasons to use the MTD, or a bicycle."  Either way, you can ignore the lights.

Lostinspace wrote on May 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I personally appreciate the signals that detect traffic flow in order to turn the light red just as I approach it, like the check-out lines that close when it is my turn.  Such things slow the pace of life and teach one humility.

MSJ66 wrote on May 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Based on the buffoons on the city council past, present and future finacial decisions regarding taxpayer money we can assume there will need to be a new tax and/or fee for this right?

fflkommish wrote on May 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Synch the one-ways!  State and Randolph thru the middle of town are ripe for improvement.  You should be able to go from Church to Green and have all the lights turn green as you hit them.

jmb wrote on May 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I wonder which member of the city councils college buddy owns the outfit they want to pay a cool $50k for work that could be done by almost any city employee in about 5 minutes. Send the hordes of college kids they hire each summer to sit in a lawn chair and count cars for a few weeks, dump the data in a computer to crunch the numbers, and program the lights. Big deal!

Nice Davis wrote on May 21, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Wow! Who knew it was that easy? Just have one city employee take 5 minutes (or have a bunch of college interns take a few weeks...I'm not sure which) and then "dump it into a computer" and...presto! Thanks for enlightening us on what a simple and cheap process this really is. Maybe you should submit a lower bid to show the city what's up and save the taxpayers some money!




(Or you have no idea what you're talking about)

Marti Wilkinson wrote on May 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm

North Prospect has been something of nightmare since the area was developed, and it may take more than some tweaking of traffic lights to fix it. I just don't think that anyone considered what the traffic flow would be like, and now the city has an extra expense on top of the extra money going towards the library and safety personnel. 


Danno wrote on May 21, 2013 at 7:05 am

It's not mentioned in this article, though, concerning the Prospect and I-74 interchange (e.g. on/off ramp light timing), I think those are under IDOT control. Not City/County. So, everything/much depends on IDOT. Kinda' like when University Av. became so deteriorated, it's not that the city can just repave/improve at will; as University is also state route 150 & 45...IDOT again.

thorx wrote on May 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

This is the exact type of thing that keeps us a small town.  Overlooking something as basic as timing stoplights.  This should not be considered a "project", this should be considered standard maintenance.  The traffic plan and traffic flow in this town are abyssmal. 

When I heard about a plan to improve the traffic flow of Lincoln Avenue a few years ago, I was intially excited thinking it would become a four lane road.  Instead, they put in more cross walks, more stop signs and made it a 2 lane street with a turn lane.  Ridiculous given the number of cars that use the road. 

Peoria actually TIMES their stoplights, Springfield actually has FOUR LANE roads coming into and out of town. 

Instead of giving this "project" to an over-priced company, they should look to the UI Civil Engineering students who could offer a more contemporary and state of the art solution.

fflkommish wrote on May 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm


Orbiter wrote on May 22, 2013 at 11:05 am

thorx wrote: "Instead of giving this "project" to an over-priced company, they should look to the UI Civil Engineering students who could offer a more contemporary and state of the art solution."

jmb wrote: "Send the hordes of college kids they hire each summer to sit in a lawn chair and count cars for a few weeks, dump the data in a computer to crunch the numbers, and program the lights."

Funny how when it's offered in seriousness, they describe "civil engineering students" and when it's offered in sarcasm, they describe "hordes of college kids".  Just for the record, whether they're studying engineering, literature, or microbiology, they are NOT "kids".  They all deserve to be treated as the adults they are.  Thank you.

ps: $50k isn't really so much for this project. And it *is* long overdue. Thanks to the city council for finally taking action!

thorx wrote on May 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Thx for arbitrating the opposing viewpoints, LOL!  But the population of Champaign alone as increased 20% in 10 years and yet the traffic infrastructure is still maintained at 2000 levels.  Not good enough, and it's small minded.  Not only should they revamp and update the traffic flow efficiency, there should be a plan in place for continued growth.  We will soon be a city of 100,000 not the 60,000 that the roads were built for.

And with regards to the use of students, I just suggested that out of frustration for the limp effort on upgrading Lincoln Avenue.  Although, it's not a bad thought.  There are UI students working on developing the world's fastest computer, a cure for cancer, satellite telemetry...I would think improving traffic flow would be a simple project for our engineering students.

Importantlocalopinion wrote on May 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm

50,000 seems like alot for two main streets that are not intersected by any large streets.

dw wrote on May 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

Modern designed roundabouts are far safer and far cheaper (over the long run) than traffic lights and do not require timing.

How many times have you, the law abiding citizen, sat at a red traffic light, burning fuel sitting and waiting for it to turn green when there was no reason for you to stop in the first place nor continue to wait for it to turn green (no pedestrians, no traffic comming from the other direction)?

Timing traffic lights is a complex logistical problem.

A clever person solves a problem.  A wise one avoids it.  Roundabouts avoid this problem.

One of the first communities in the United States to install a traffic light has switched largely to roundabouts.  Carmel Indiana's conservative leadership has found roundabout implementation conserves lives, fuel and time.  Nobody speeds up to beat a roundabout, and if they do (or try to drive straight through), they eliminate the problem themselves.  T-bone style accidents are a rarity with roundabouts, common with lighted intersections.

Our metro has a very, very large problem with collisions at intersections often leading to death -- both vehicle on vehicle and vehicular-pedestrian/bicyclist.  Search the NG archives for "intersection collision" for some reminders of how bad it is... makes for spectacular news photos though... 

When a driver approaches a lighted intersection, their focus and concern is on the light and whether it is going to change from green-to-yellow (at which point they mash their right foot on the accellerator), instead of being having their focus and concern on the important things that they don't want to hit, and their right-foot hovering over the brake.  Stop lights encourage the former behavior, roundabouts the latter.

The major problem with roundabouts is that the initial opposition to roundabouts by those unfamiliar with using them regularly is very high.  However surveys a year after installation find that residents want more of them, and in some cases have even developed funds themselves to help pay for them (ie, have self-taxed).

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Urbana should follow your advice.  The city of Urbana should develop the funds solely from self-taxing.  There would be no County, State, or Federal funds used for the roundabouts.  Urbana would pay for it's desired roundabouts with Urbana's money.  It would be a win-win for all.

justthefacts wrote on May 24, 2013 at 11:05 am

DW's experience with roundabouts is not universal. A friend who works for the Madison, Wisconsin highway department told me that construction of additional roundabouts in that city is on hold. More frequent accidents, greater initial expense, and motorist dislike were the reasons he mentioned. I grew up in New England, where traffic circles are common. Those traffic circles were not the modern, properly engineered roundabouts promoted by DW, but they have the same issues of occupyng large amounts of land, causing driver confusion on entering and exiting, and relying on good driving etiquette for smooth traffic flow. I do recall massive traffic jams at circles on Cape Cod and the seacoast north of Boston.


Importantlocalopinion wrote on May 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I can't believe that it would cost 50,000 grand to synchronize the lights better on, what, two streets (prospect and neil)? To solve the problem you just need a stopwatch and car to drive down the streets to time it.