Raleigh Red Light Sync Project Will Take Five Years

Posted February 10, 2006 8:48 a.m. EST

— Many Raleigh drivers say there's a common theme in the Capitol City. At the traffic lights, there's more red than green, leading to more stop than go.

“The left turn lane is pretty slow,” said driver John Davis. “It's a one out of 50 chance that you come in and it'll be green. But hey, I've got time. I can wait till it changes.”

Now there's hope for drivers seeing red. Raleigh just gave the green light to a $28 million overhaul of the city's traffic signal system. It'll synchronize lights and keep drivers moving as much as possible, all over town.

There's one catch. With 500 lights, it'll take five years to get things in sync.

When told it would take until the year 2011 to fix the system, driver Jim Hooks said, “Sounds like a long time, doesn't it? I hope I'm still around in 2011.”

City manager Russel Allen understands why people aren't exactly lighting up over the time frame, but says replacing an outdated system is a big job.

“Every location is a separate physical structure, and we have hundreds of locations that are going to have to be designed and we have to look at all the traffic conditions,” said Allen. “We have to understand what type of equipment is needed, what are the special circumstances at each one.”

One of the areas where WRAL have received the most complaints is on Capital Boulevard near the Beltline. Sometimes, even though the lights are only a tenth of a mile apart, you get a red light at Westinghouse Boulevard, while you're green at Highwoods Boulevard.

“There have been times I got caught in the middle of those intersections, and the light has already changed red, and so cars almost hit me,” said Thorpe.

Engineers need two years for planning and three years for construction. Raleigh's mayor Charles Meeker agreed that five years is too long. He said he'll try to speed up the schedule, if possible.