Traffic Light Safety: How to fix traffic signal issues within Spartanburg city limits

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – The late Albert Einstein has been widely credited for the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Thus, the challenge is always to change something for a different outcome.

That’s what the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and the city of Spartanburg have asked drivers to do when it comes to traffic signal issues. If there is a problem on the roads, don’t just angryily drive it every day, speak up.

SCDOT monitors more than 900 county traffic signals across the state. Drivers can call the toll-free number, 1-855-467-2368, for help with them. Yet, cities like Spartanburg, are in charge of signal issues within city limits, therefore, drivers are encouraged to use the Hey Spartanburg! Mobile App.

7News TaTiana Cash asked viewers on social media which lights they were having problems with. Several complaints about the timing in connection to the heavy traffic volumes at W.O. Ezelle Boulevard and Dorman Center Drive came up. Those driving straight would have an average of one minute and 30 seconds from red light change to red light change. But, those in the turning lane only got an average of 15 seconds from green to red.

Driver, Terrance Foster, enjoys the food options at the Dorman Center but not the light.

“It’s too short. So, it can turn green and then if you want to get through, it easily just turns red, just like that so I’m like, ok,” Foster said.

The city of Spartanburg’s Communications and Marketing Manager, Christopher George, noted that the city is willing to listen to any problem.

“If we get consistent complaints about a light, we’ll go to our traffic consultant and we may do a traffic study on the light,” George said.

George may have his work cut out for him, since comments about W.O. Ezelle and Dorman Center’s light are less than flattering. Long time area resident, Trailes Samples, explained that living nearby he’s watched traffic volumes grow heavier and heavier outside of peak travel times.

“It is dangerous in my opinion. I stay pretty close and so I come to this shopping center quite a bit,” Samples said. 

“I try to avoid it. If I’m coming down here, I’m either going down that way going towards Walmart to take that intersection. Or I’m either going behind Red Crab to take that intersection, I got to go all the way around. But it’s better than going to that intersection,” Foster added.

While the intersection is within Spartanburg city limits, SCDOT must be included in this potential change. Since the On and Off Ramps of Interstate 26 are close by, W.O. Ezelle and Dorman Center tend to have heavier traffic flows.

“I didn’t even know nobody was really paying it no attention. I just thought it was me. I just kind of just come and go and don’t really think about it,” Samples said.

Drivers like Samples and Foster aren’t thrilled with the signal. But, like many, didn’t know speaking up could start a change. 

“Did you know that you can actually call DOT and complain about the light?” TaTiana Cash asked.
“Are you for real?” Foster replied.
“Kid you not,” Cash answered.
“Okay well I’m going to give them a call then,” Foster said.

George noted that if enough complaints about a signal are logged, a traffic study will happen. However, drivers need to understand that any changes will cause a domino effect, especially on W.O. Ezelle Boulevard.

“If you wanted to add five seconds to this. You would have to do something, you would have to add something. Or you have to subtract something from the light-from both of the lights going down. You’ll have to, or else they’re out of time. Then you have more back up at one of them,” George explained.

But, just because complaints bring about a complicated attempt to fix it, does not mean change is unheard of. Actually change due to complaints happened a few years ago.

The East main intersection in front of the new Spartanburg High School. We had to work with DOT there to install a median to prevent some left turns, because there was a lot of problems. Folks were backed up at that light waiting to turn left and things like that,” George explained.

According to SCDOT many traffic signals are commonly run through radar, cameras, or a ground loop detection systems. W.O. Ezelle and Dorman Center signal is through a ground loop.

The Federal Highway Administration for the United States Department of Transportation explained that the use of Pavement Invasive (Inductive Loop or ‘ground loop’) detector helps with the timing for vehicles stop and go.

But while the detection systems help with the traffic timing, causes for back ups that aren’t always from peak traffic volumes can be driver error, George argued.

“Someone is not paying attention at the light. If you’re not paying attention and the sensors underneath the road don’t sense wheels going over them, the timer will tick off. It won’t reset because more cars are going over it. and so you’ll get a shorter light than you would have normally. Because the traffic signal itself isn’t detecting a number of cars to extend the time,” George explained.

He added that the city of Spartanburg has been and is committed to listening for complaints about W.O. Ezelle Boulevard and Dorman Center Drive intersection and others areas like it. To log a complaint click HeySpartanburg! or on iTunes and Android app stores. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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