VDOT Reviewing Light Cycles on 29N

VDOT is reviewing the timing of lights on 29N. The bad news is that some of these jammed intersections are probably just getting more traffic than they can handle.  #

9 Responses to “VDOT Reviewing Light Cycles on 29N”


  • And here I thought you were referring to those Light Cycles in Tron…

  • The bad news is that some of these jammed intersections are probably just getting more traffic than they can handle.

    Personally, I find that VERY hard to believe. I grew up in a fairly large metropolitan area with a major US highway running through the city. The highway had four lanes each direction, just like our beloved US-29, and I never (NEVER!) saw the kind of traffic issues Charlottesville has on a consistent basis.

    I think it boils down to a few issues…

    1. The lights on 29 are not timed. At all. I don’t care what they’ve done in the past or what they plan to do in the future. Until they actually link up everything so that a system that can control all the lights along 29 from Barracks to Airport Rd, then there will continue to be nothing but traffic problems along 29.

    2. Too much priority is given to side streets. We’re talking about a US highway. This is supposed to be one step down from an Interstate and yet it gets treated as a normal road; not that much different from Rio in the minds of the “planners”. If more priority was given to the lights along 29 (and they were timed appropriately), then traffic along 29 would run smooth as silk. Would traffic on the side streets back up? Sure, but you can bet people would find other ways to get to 29. And if traffic on 29 was running smooth, then people would be willing to wait a little longer at Rio or Hydraulic or Greenbrier to get onto 29. And when was the last time you saw more than 10 cars backed up at somewhere like Greenbrier? Instead of quick lights each way, give a looooooooong light to 29 and then enough light to let the 10 cars (or 15 if the 29 lights are longer) at Greenbrier through.

    When I was growing up, the major US highway I lived near went through a HUGE overhaul in the city just North of us. Everybody was up in arms about all the issues that would be created by the construction and how long traffic would be disrupted and everything else under the sun. But, what happened was that they city had developed a plan (a PLAN! Long-term at that!) that would alleviate traffic problems and they implemented it, despite it taking many, many years to do so. They eschewed temporary solutions and “we can make it a bit better” solutions for the real solution, despite the road being constantly under construction for what seemed like a decade.

    The result? Traffic flowed better than it ever had in decades and everybody started asking the neighboring cities why they weren’t implementing such obviously superior plans for their section of the highway.

    Everybody wants a quick fix for 29, but it needs a major overhaul, beginning with the light system. Just getting a system would be a start and then they could build from there.

    For all the money and time spent talking about bypasses and other “solutions”, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why Charlottesville just doesn’t look at larger cities that have figured out the US highway issue. They’re out there… if they look.

  • @TheCowGoesMoo:
    The Charlottesville area started really growing after I-64 went in. It was never targeted for growth in a planned manner, it just happened informally and incrementally. Since 64, we’ve planned for a variety of fixes, with varying levels of success, but we haven’t kept up with demand anywhere except maybe some neighborhoods, which have suffered from cut-through traffic.

    I’m guessing that you came from a place that was not rapidly growing in population and had some time to settle in. We aren’t there yet.

    1. I believe you’re right that the light timing isn’t synchronized all the way to the airport. That makes sense to me.

    2. Yeah, there’s this idea called Access Management that’s been popular for the last few years basically saying that access to through ways like 29 (a state highway) should be concentrated only at a few points to prioritize its use as a through way rather than suffering gridlock. It makes sense, but is not popular with property owners who paid big money for prime access. There have been suggestions and several plans that 29 become a limited access highway more like I-64 to improve throughput, but this again was not popular with property owners who would lose their valuable access. Various bypass schemes have been suggested, but they all cost ridiculous sums of money, mean major environmental problems, and are very likely to increase the number of cars on the road, quickly eating up any gains.

    3. As for exciting new ideas successful elsewhere, I think that you’re spot on. That’s the sort of thinking this area needs.

  • >>>>> It makes sense, but is not popular with property owners who paid big money for prime access.

  • I thought I read here or some other news site that the lights on 29 were to be retimed back in March? Anyone else remember that?

  • There have been suggestions and several plans that 29 become a limited access highway more like I-64 to improve throughput, but this again was not popular with property owners who would lose their valuable access.

    If you time the lights and time them in such a way that priority is given to 29 traffic, you can maintain all the current access and still smooth traffic along 29.

    You have one lane for traffic slowing to turn right (the far right lane) and you have one lane for traffic slowing to turn left (the far left lane) and you still have two lanes left. It’s those two lanes that should be running smooth as silk and that can be done with proper light timing.

    You’re right that the place I came from was fairly settled, but that doesn’t change the point. In fact, it emphasizes it; it points to the fact that there are ideas that work.

    When I drove along the US Highway in my hometown, I could ride for miles before being stopped by a light. And once you got synced with the lights, you would literally see them turning green just as you otherwise would have started to slow for the red light. It was like something from a movie.

    And the highway still had MANY properties along it with access to the road. In fact, there may have been more access points along the highway than what Charlottesville has. But, priority was always given to the highway. You might have waited minutes to cross the highway, but you only waited seconds through a stop light while on the highway. The cross streets only got a light long enough to empty the cars waiting at the light and that was it.

    I thought I read here or some other news site that the lights on 29 were to be retimed back in March? Anyone else remember that?

    Yes, and as I recall they were just going to do a one-time sync, meaning that the next time the power goes out any of the lights, they whole thing is screwed up again. What’s the point in that?

    The city should save the money to install a real system; one that will at least survive a thunderstorm.

  • If you time the lights and time them in such a way that priority is given to 29 traffic, you can maintain all the current access and still smooth traffic along 29.

    And that’s the crux of the matter. What VDOT is hoping to do is deal with complaints not about people traveling along 29, but people crossing it and feeding onto it. From the article:

    “So if you add more green or particular movements say on Hydraulic road to turn left than you’re probably taking it off Route 29. So there’s a balancing act that you have to weigh,” Gustafson says.

    Another factor VDOT is looking at is travel volume. They say some intersections on Route 29 are well over capacity.

    Sure, they’ve optimized the lights on 29. Once you’re in the county (as opposed to in the city), you can zip clear up to the river without hitting a red. But if you want to get across Hydraulic between 8:30-9:30am or 4:30-5:30pm, expect to wait.

  • ‘smooth as silk’ on the two lanes left to travel straight ahead on 29? that’s not much space for the cars & trucks traveling at 6 or 7 different speeds. I won’t argue the lights could/should be timed allowing 29 to get the majority of the green, but I believe they were set at 45 mph a short time ago. So when a large % of drivers are going 55-65 mph with a few constantly changing lanes, they’ll have to stop several times between Barracks and Airport Rd.

  • ’smooth as silk’ on the two lanes left to travel straight ahead on 29? that’s not much space for the cars & trucks traveling at 6 or 7 different speeds.

    It works every day on my commute to C’ville along Interstate-64 with two lanes of traffic going 6 or 7 different speeds. Just like you will get those going 55-65 on 29, you get those going 75-85 on the Interstate. And, just like you get those going 30 on 29, you get those going 50 on the Interstate. The only difference is the lights.

    Granted, the lights do make a difference, but if the lights are timed to the speed limit, then the only people left waiting at the lights are the ones going 55-65 and what do I care about them if I’m traveling 45? Remembering back to may days in my hometown and finally getting my drivers license, I learned VERY quickly to travel the speed limit along our US Highway. And when I did, I was like the Energizer Bunny: I kept going and going and going.

    And I always got a kick out of the people who were speeding and would fly past me only to have me catch up to them just as the red light they got stopped at would turn green for me to keep going. I would seriously laugh sometimes when a particular car was getting stopped at EVERY light and I wasn’t.

    I, obviously, have no problem with speeders having to wait at red lights. The lights, and the rest of the US-29 infrastructure, should not be set up based on speeders. In fact, it should be set up to make life more difficult on speeders, just like lights timed to 45 MPH would. Maybe the speeders will pull their heads out of their you-know-what and get the sense enough to realize that speeding isn’t helping them and that doing the speed limit would save them a lot of trouble. And if not, they wait. Big whoop.

    I believe they were set at 45 mph a short time ago.

    They were, but it wasn’t an integrated system and the first time the lights went out, the system was gone. I do remember traveling 29 a couple of times while the lights were timed and traffic seemed to flow quite nicely. However, the other problem is that they didn’t prioritize the lights properly and it did cause some issues with fast lights and not enough opportunities for 29 to run smooth for longer periods of time, as I recall.

Comments are currently closed.

Sideblog