ACHD using adjusted traffic light intervals for increased traffic

Drivers in Ada County are noticing an increase in traffic. The Ada County Highway District is retiming traffic lights and intersections in an effort to keep cars moving.

ADA COUNTY, Idaho – As Ada County’s population continues to grow, so does its traffic. Local residents are beginning to notice this on the road.

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are beginning to feel the brunt of traffic congestion. UBER drivers like Perry Merkel experience this on a daily basis.

“I can’t deny it, things that used to take X minutes now take X more,” Merkel said.

Markel has given over 18,000 rides in the last 5 1/2 years. Increased traffic has forced Merkel to learn shortcuts and avoid specific intersections in Treasure Valley.

“All legally of course,” Merkel said.

Ada County is home to 465 signalized intersections, according to Ada County Highway District (ACHD) congestion management supervisor Mike Boydstun. ACHD uses industry standard formulas to time the intervals between red and green lights.

Downtown Boise intersections are set at predetermined time intervals. So when people like Jacob Peterson get caught at the same red light every morning, it’s by design.

“I’ve been late to school a couple of times because of this,” Peterson said.

Traveling the same route at the same time from day to day will often yield the same results, but not always.

Outside of the city center, most intersections are equipped with sensors to align lighting hours with real-time traffic flow. Everything is monitored by 220 traffic light cameras scattered at intersections in Ada County.

“We could zoom in and tell you heads or tails on a coin,” said Wendi Tillman, specialist at the ACHD traffic management center. “I watch for traffic delays, debris on the road or stalled vehicles – anything that can cause traffic to slow down. Then I get law enforcement on the road, or if there’s It’s a signal malfunction, I get our signal timing guys on it or the signal engineers on it and deal with it.”

Traffic cameras do not record and are not used for law enforcement purposes.

“It would be a full-time job if we tried to do that because there are so many red-light runners in this area,” Tillman said.

ACHD does not have complete control over every traffic light at all times. Emergency vehicles, such as an ambulance, can override traffic light synchronization to ensure that the vehicle reaches green lights in an emergency.

This waiver can impact lights within a half-mile radius, according to Boydstun. If you’re at an extra-long red light and near a hospital, it means your wait may be the product of a priority emergency.

Overrides like this happen up to 65,000 times a month in Ada County, according to Boydstun.

“Once the emergency vehicle passes, it returns to a normal cycle,” Tillman said. “It may take a few seconds, but it will return to a normal cycle.”

It’s a cycle that has drawn some criticism and for newcomers and transplant recipients, it’s all relative.

“Before that, I lived in Oregon, so I lived in places like Portland and Seattle,” TJ Centanni said. “It’s much worse there”

However, traffic is a shared experience and after all, we all wait at the same red lights next to UBER drivers like Merkel.

“Be patient,” Merkel said.

ACHD welcomes comments and concerns to better maintain traffic at (208) 387-6100. This includes information about malfunctioning traffic lights, missing or damaged signs, and clogged roads.

“By getting this input from the public, we were able to bring some intersections back to operating more efficiently by being able to correct detection,” Boydstun said.

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