Waterloo Adds New Color Lights to Intersection as Traffic Experiment
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
WATERLOO, Iowa - Even kids way too young to drive know red means stop and green means go when they come to an intersection, but drivers in Waterloo will see another color at one intersection, blue.
Waterloo, along with researchers at the University of Kansas, picked an intersection to use as part of an experiment to see if an extra indicator light will prevent more people from running red lights at busy intersections. The blue warning lights went up Friday morning at the intersection of University Avenue and Ansborough Avenue on the west side of Waterloo. Dan Trelka, Waterloo director of safety services, said that intersection is one of a dozen in Waterloo with the highest number of red light violators. Researchers also wanted to use it because of higher traffic counts.
“Red light violations are particularly bad at about a dozen of our intersections, and this tends to be one of the worst. We’ve had many, many crashes at this intersection, some that involved serious injuries,” Trelka said.
The blue bulbs light up in time with the red lights controlling each direction of traffic. And those blue lights are visible to the other traffic as an indicator someone didn’t clear the intersection before the light was red.
Unlike red light camera systems in cities like Cedar Rapids, the blue light in Waterloo at the one intersection will not be used to issue tickets or record violators. However, police patrolling the areas could rely on them to ticket violators they witness driving go through a red light at the intersection.
Researchers from Kansas will videotape traffic at this one intersection and compare it to intersections without the blue lights to see if it makes any difference over a period of time.
Mohammad Elahi, Waterloo traffic engineer, said researchers approached the city about installing the lights as part of a six month long research project. There is also another blue light in Iowa at an intersection in Altoona near Des Moines.
Elahi said the blue lights probably won’t distract drivers because they are barely visible in daylight although they might be easier to see at night. Rather, he says it’s a way to better determine, from all directions, if someone ran the red light. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) is funding the cost of the study at the Iowa locations.
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