As a delivery driver, Connor Barnes spends a lot of time on the road.
Subsequently, he spends plenty of time waiting for traffic lights to change from yellow to red to green.
“I do experience that a lot,” he said on Monday as he stood near the intersection of South Farwell and Washington streets, traffic lights flashing behind him. “(Anything that makes) for less wait time is a great idea.”
State Department of Transportation officials are working to reduce that wait time at the intersections of Highway 93 and Golf Road and Highway 93 and Hamilton Avenue. Officials planned to alter some lanes and install flashing yellow arrows on Monday night.
When drivers turning left have a flashing yellow arrow, it means they must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians but can turn when the coast is clear.
State DOT traffic safety engineer Greg Helgeson said the changes should result in a 20 percent delay reduction for drivers. At those two intersections, Helgeson said drivers could wait two minutes and 30 seconds for the light to return to green, the maximum light cycle setting utilized. After the project, he hopes that wait time will be two minutes or less.
“We’re trying to reduce the time you have to wait until you get the green light back,” he said. “This will improve the situation for everyone there.”
Many intersections around Eau Claire already feature flashing yellow arrows for left-hand turns, Helgeson said. After installing the lights, he said project officials will observe traffic and make timing changes as needed. He said the goal is for drivers to notice a difference in how long they wait at lights in the area by the middle of next week.
The changes are expected to cost $123,000, according to the DOT, and are funded with state transportation money.
DOT officials will also alter one of four lanes at those intersections. Before the project, those intersections featured one left-turn lane, one left-turn and straight lane, one straight lane and one right-turn lane. This project turns the left-turn and straight lane into an only straight lane, meaning drivers will now only have one lane in which to turn left at those lights.
“People tend to be creatures of habit,” Helgeson said, “and they have to be aware of these changes.”
When asked whether she envisions drivers struggling to remember the lane change at first, Aleah Anderson was quick to answer.
“Oh yeah, I could totally see that,” she said.
Anderson said she’s overall understanding of the changes, but she maintained with a laugh, “I like the green arrow better.”
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