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Driving You Crazy: Traffic light sensors. There are numerous intersections where you just sit idling

Why does the light never change?
Posted at 10:23 AM, Nov 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-10 12:23:33-05

Dane from Denver writes, “What’s driving you crazy? Traffic light sensors. There are numerous intersections where you sit idling, and there is no traffic coming from either direction and the light never changes. An example of this is E Hampden and Locust, just east of I-25. Turning east onto Hampden from Locust can take a very long time.”

So long that you might think it would take just as long to pulling into King Soopers, do some shopping and then leave. Each city, in this case Denver, manages their own traffic signals. Some are on a timer but most are on a vehicle detection cycle. That means when a car pulls up, the traffic signal is supposed to sense the vehicle and then the light is supposed to change right away. At some signals however, when the vehicle detection mechanism is activated, a timer starts that will then change the light after a set period of time.  

I talked to Heather Burke, Communications Specialist for Denver Public Works. She tells me that light is one of the longer timed lights in the city. “At most traffic lights in Denver, signal cycles run between 90 and 120 seconds. So if you arrive at Hampden & Locust at the end of this two minute phase, it may feel like you’re waiting awhile, but it’s actually the standard signal length for this type of traffic light.”

    MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy   

The policy at Denver Public Works about the length of traffic lights comes down to the total signal time provided to accommodate all the users of the intersection and the movements that are occurring, including people walking, biking, driving through the intersection, and turning.

Denver Public Works retimes traffic signals along many major corridors every three years but there are times they retime more often especially in areas that see growth or traffic pattern changes. I believe there is an increase of traffic coming to Hampden as soon as the new barrier is installed on the ramp from DTC Blvd to southbound I-225. That barrier will restrict drivers wanting to go south on I-25 from that ramp and force them to go north to Hampden and the turn around to go south. Some drivers might opt to use the side streets instead to get to Hampden or go south to Belleview. Either way, more drivers are going to use Hampden than in recent years.     

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 Facebookand Twitter or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast oniTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Podbean