2018-01-11 / Front Page

Timing is of the essence

City seeks to recalibrate left-turn light to reduce bottlenecks
BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK – Intended to ease traffic flow at a busy intersection, the long-awaited left-turn signal at Miller and Morrish roads has not produced the results motorists and city leaders expected.

“It’s not working,” said City Manager Adam Zettel.

Eastbound traffic is backing up in the morning; westbound traffic is facing long delays in the afternoon and evening.

The problem, Zettel said, is timing.

He and Department of Public Services Director Tom Svrcek are working with the county to adjust the timing for the left-turn delays, but according to Svrcek, the signal is just part of the problem.

Drivers who take a very long time to turn right into some downtown business lots, or who stop to unload passengers on Miller Road, exacerbate the gridlock, said Svrcek. And then there are the drivers who don’t go when the lights turn green.

“There are so many problems in that area,” he said.

There’s also the issue of where the county installed the left-turn lights.

The signals were supposed to go on Morrish Road.

“There was a misunderstanding,” said Svrcek.

The idea for adding signals arose after the Miller Road reconstruction project in 2015. At that time, temporary left-turn lights were set up.

Many residents said the lights seemed to reduce the amount of time they had to wait to turn left onto Morrish Road. A subsequent traffic study, however, indicated the improvement to traffic flow was likely to be negligible.

In addition, adding left-turn delays would require technology upgrades and new light poles, which rendered the project cost-prohibitive, according to the engineer’s reports.

Some time last year, the county, which maintains the traffic signals, advised that new LED bulbs were needed at the intersection. As long as they were going to be working on the lights, county officials offered to add left-turn arrows, at a substantially reduced cost to the city.

But since the study, traffic patterns have changed, largely because the new signal at Morrish and Bristol roads has resulted in groups of southbound motorists arriving at Miller Road at the same time.

“There is also more traffic from Meijer,” said Svrcek. “A tremendous amount.”

Despite the change, the motoring public seems to prefer the leftturn lights on Miller Road; so, for now, that’s where they’ll stay.

Zettel and Svrcek will monitor the effects is the adjusted timing and report back to the city council later this month.

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