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Illegal right turners running rampant at Rio Grande/I-40

THOSE RIGHT TURNERS NEED A RED FLAG: Bruce Blevins emails “a modest suggestion to help prevent drivers from performing right-turn-on-red actions at the intersection of the off ramp from Interstate 40 east and Rio Grande. The highway department could put a sign on one of the structures at the north end of the cross walk that is across the off ramp.

“The sign could just be ‘No right turn on red onto Rio Grande’ or even ‘Hey, you driver coming off of I-40 east! Don’t do a right turn on red onto Rio Grande!’ Either way we know the drivers are looking toward where the sign would be when they make these illegal turns, and it might enter their consciousness that they should not.”

Kimberly Gallegos, who handles info for the Metro-area office of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, says “our traffic section is looking into adding additional signing and also working closely with law enforcement to prevent these illegal right turns on red.”

U.S. 550 NEEDS SOME MERGE HELP: Larry Gorman says in an email “construction on U.S. 550 in Bernalillo has progressed to where the westbound lanes are using the newly constructed bridge lanes. However, just west of the bridge, westbound lanes are hampered by a poorly implemented detour plan.”

Larry explains “the left-hand land ends and people are required to merge into the next lane to their right. However a new westbound lane is added to the north side to compensate for the loss of the lane on the south. The problem is that the drivers are not encouraged to move into the new lane as the striping does not alert the drivers to the new lane, and I suspect that they are so intent on watching the south lane merge into their lane without incident that they are not seeing the new lane which opens up to the north side of this mess. Very few drivers are using the north lane.

“Can you please help to fix this mess?”

NMDOT can.

Gallegos says “I have talked with the project manager, and she has assured me that there are double indicated signs, an arrow board and a merge-right sign. The plan is to have all lanes restored to their permanent configuration by (this) week.”

IN THE DARK UNDER THE BIG I: Bill Lord reports via email that “there used to be coordinated color lights on three sections of columns under the Big I that are no longer working. Could you check on those?”

Diane Wikler, marketing manager/public information officer for the city’s Solid Waste Management Department, says it is “currently evaluating the technology available for this project as well as the costs associated with revamping the lights.”

HOW LONG ARE TRAFFIC SIGNAL CYCLES? Lori voices that question. Her email says “a lot of people run yellow traffic lights, and even red traffic lights. I was wondering, on average, how long are traffic light cycles? How much time are people really saving by endangering the rest of us?”

The short answer is, signal times vary depending on many factors, including the width of the intersection, the speed limit, if there are pedestrian crossing buttons and the traffic volume at different times of day.

The longer answer, which Bernalillo County traffic control administrator Bobby Baker helped explain in this column last year, is that times are calculated “using the formula in the ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) manual.”

That manual runs $175. But I was able to piece together a few internet specifics, again with the understanding every intersection has its own set of circumstances:

The American Traffic Solutions website says that “federal guidelines recommend yellow lights last from 3 to 6 seconds.”

The National Association of City Transportation Officials website says “short cycle lengths of 60 to 90 seconds are ideal for urban areas” because “long signal cycles, compounded over multiple intersections, can make crossing a street or walking even a short distance prohibitive and frustrating. This discourages walking altogether, and makes streets into barriers that separate destinations, rather than arteries that stitch them together.”

And a Utah traffic engineer explained in an article in the Daily Herald back in 2013 that “the typical light cycle is 120 seconds, meaning the longest you would ever sit at a red light is one-and-half to two minutes.”

Back in the Albuquerque metro area, factor in that every intersection has between 0.5 to 1.5 seconds of all-red-in-all-directions so late yellow runners can clear the intersection.

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103.