Lights on North Prospect to get more in tune

Lights on North Prospect to get more in tune

CHAMPAIGN — The city's literal red-light district — and probably a white-knuckle road for some — is about to get a fresh start: Officials hope drivers catch more green down North Prospect Avenue after they recoordinate the timing of the lights this summer.

The readjustment of how the traffic lights are timed is set to take place in late July or early August, said Champaign civil engineer Chris Sokolowski, and it should keep drivers moving along North Prospect Avenue — particularly the north end of that commercial area — more efficiently.

City officials last year hired Peoria-based TERRA Engineering to collect data from along the North Prospect Avenue corridor. Engineers focused more on the north part, from Town Center Boulevard to Interstate Drive, which is the more recently-developed section. Those lights have never been coordinated with the others, making it more likely for drivers to catch a red.

City officials now have those numbers and are poring over the recommendations to re-time the traffic signals. They plan to start doing that within the next several weeks, before University of Illinois students return to town.

The study also looked at the entrance to Lowe's and Baytowne Drive, closer to the south end of the commercial area, but Sokolowski said the changes to the timing there will be relatively minimal.

The report took about a year to turn around. Public works spokesman Kris Koester said Terra Engineering and the city's in-house staff were tied up with other, higher-priority traffic and street maintenance projects.

But now that they have the report in hand, they're hoping it leads to shorter average drive times up North Prospect Avenue.

"The goal is to be able for drivers to move along Prospect more efficiently," Sokolowski said.

Well, that is, at least once drivers get north of Interstate 74. Traversing the interstate is a problem that will remain unsolved with the traffic signal timing project.

The lights across the overpass that direct traffic at each ramp to and from the interstate are owned and maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation, not the city. IDOT retimed those lights several years ago, Sokolowski said

Apparently to little effect.

"The congestion issues over I-74 are not solvable with signal timing adjustments," Koester said. "There is a capacity issue with the constant stream of traffic coming from all directions — eastbound, westbound and southbound — at Marketview all heading south."

That section of Prospect Avenue was reviewed about 10 years ago. The conclusion of that report was that the only solution is additional lanes over I-74.

Traffic signals fall out of coordination over time as traffic patterns change or, as in this case, new development messes with the flow of vehicles.

When they discussed the North Prospect Avenue re-timing last year, city officials suggested that they might next examine traffic signal coordination in the downtown area.

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Topics (1):Transportation

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cwdog57 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

i can't believe no one has commented on this article. i find it hard to believe the city actually paid someone to tell them there was a problem with the signal timing. common sense and the public could have told them that 10 yrs ago. most people that travel frequently by car can tell you which roads need there lights timed or readjusted for more efficiency. mtd drivers probably know best of all. they should of just asked someone. i wouldn't of even charged them a dime.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on July 14, 2014 at 10:07 am
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I always assumed the awful timing was deliberate.  I never determined a rationale, but I assumed it was deliberate.


I avoid North Prospect like the plague because I consider it The Red Light District. I wonder how many people feel the same way, and how many thousands of dollars were lost to retailers, due to bad planning.

Lostinspace wrote on July 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

And it's only going to get worse.  Not only do I avoid Prospect, I avoid the whole box area.  If I can't shop in town, I go on the web.

jmuggl952 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

The three stop lights in front of Carle Clinic/Hospital on University also need better timing, although the mis-timing might be either a best effort by Urbana planning personnel or to deliberately slow down traffic.

fflkommish wrote on July 14, 2014 at 4:07 pm

why don't State and Randolph have timed lights thru the middle of town?  Is that so hard/expensive? 


pattsi wrote on July 14, 2014 at 9:07 pm

T'is the case that transportation research ndicates rather conclusively that roadway design that facilitates a driver to continue to move forward, even at a relatively slow pace, driver frustration is highly mitigated and thus driver behavior. So it makes perfect sense to synchronize as many of the street lights on E-W and N-S streets that CUUATS has basically designated as those to travel since purposefully means have been put in place to frustrate drivers to use the inner city streets, such as Green, Main, Springfield, getting close on Kirby/Florida, etc. Big bravo for this project.

LocalTownie wrote on July 16, 2014 at 9:07 am

Those who know the area well know there are lots of good shortcuts around the North Prospect mess. I don't care what they do with the lights, it's still going to be a traffic nightmare. I'll stick to my shortcuts (which by the way, I like to keep to myself as I don't want them ruined!) I just wish the city could do something about all the panhandlers up there.