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Driving You Crazy: I don't understand why the light rail lights don't match the crossing?

Seems to be backward and wastes time!
Posted at 5:40 AM, Jan 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-12 07:40:01-05

Rebecca from Aurora writes, “What’s driving you crazy? When the R line went in, crossings were added as were some lights. I don't understand why the lights don't match the crossing. For example, if you are heading north on Peoria in Aurora, the lights heading east and west will sometimes stay green despite the train crossing and Peoria is left with red lights. It would seem that when the train arms are down, those lights should automatically change but they don't. Am I making sense? Seems to be backward and wastes time!”


As you can imagine Rebecca, trying to synchronize the traffic lights with the light rail crossings is tough business. The city of Aurora has been concerned over the potential impacts to traffic flow since the beginning of the R line. So the City of Aurora, RTD, PUC staff, and the company Stantec came together to work out potential kinks with the signal timing for all of the at-grade crossings and some of the adjacent intersections before the first light rail train carried any passengers.

The RTD R Line Light Rail Design Criteria states, “New traffic signal installations shall provide for all required auto and pedestrian movements in addition to signal preemption that may be required for LRVs. All existing signals shall be modified to accommodate any revisions to auto and pedestrian movements and signal preemption for LRVs where required”. In other words, the traffic signals next to the light rail crossings have been adjusted but in a way to allow for the trains to have priority over cars. Even so, car traffic is also a major priority for the city of Aurora.

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The traffic signals have been linked together in groups to minimize any disturbance to the non-train traffic at each intersection and allow for better flowing car traffic near the light rail tracks. For example, this strategy results in trains being held until the appropriate time to cross Alameda Avenue concurrently with the northbound and southbound vehicle traffic on Sable Boulevard. Other crossings were also linked together in this way, each with their own timelines outlining how train and traffic operations would interact.

Regarding the specific light rail crossing at 33rd and Peoria, Julie Patterson with the city of Aurora tells me, “if a vehicle has passed the entrance gate but is still in the track envelope, the exit gate will stay up and the eastbound traffic signal displays will stay green until the vehicle has cleared the tracks. The train would not enter the crossing until this situation had resolved itself, for obvious safety reasons. A similar condition occurs at 30th and Peoria as well”.

The city of Aurora is doing a traffic signal timing study looking at which lights need to be adjusted or retimed throughout the city. That study is expected to take about a year with adjustments coming most likely by 2019.  

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast oniTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Podbean