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Traffic lights on O Street

Traffic signals along O street have been re-engineered to help the flow of traffic. More efficient signal timing was among the best practices for the city identified by a mayor-appointed transportation coalition.

Lincoln’s rush-hour traffic jams have been a running joke heard across the state for years.

Too many stoplights. Too few freeways. Too little opportunity to avoid the major thoroughfares. Seemingly everyone who’d ever driven through the capital city claimed to have had the magic bullet that would solve an age-old problem.

However, city officials have made significant strides to address congestion and frustration on the roads. They recently touted the success of the Green Light Lincoln, which has done wonders along many busy arterials to improve traffic flow, which, in turn, saves drivers both time and money.

On O Street alone, motorists spend between two and three minutes fewer each way on the stretch between 25th Street and Skyway Road. Based on the consultant calculations performed for the city, the fixes along just this one major street will add up to save 93,500 hours, 132,700 gallons of fuel and will avoid 6.7 million stops and 13,000 kilograms of emissions.

And Phase I of the program, which encompasses O Street, is composed of eight of the city’s other busiest roads: North 84th Street, South 84th Street, South 70th Street, Vine Street, Capitol Parkway and Normal Boulevard, Antelope Valley Parkway, Nebraska 2 and Cornhusker Highway.

These streets are all undergoing the same kind of study, part of four phases and 430 intersections to be reviewed over the next three years. The early returns are promising, with equipment – including the replacement of detection coils, 30 percent of which were reported to be defective or failed – software upgrades, studies of Lincoln traffic patterns and adjustments to signal timing.

Anyone who had spent an inordinate amount of time waiting at a Lincoln intersection – basically anyone who’d driven through the city prior to Green Light Lincoln’s inception – should notice a better traffic flow on these nine major streets. While it may not be as good as a city engineer who recently traveled between 25th and 70th streets on O Street without hitting a red light, the difference is perceptible.

Drivers haven’t found the all aspects of the program – most notably, some ongoing confusion spawned by its new, flashing yellow turn arrows – to be perfectly smooth in its rollout. But the pros of its implementation continue to outweigh the cons.

Lincoln had a traffic need. Lincoln is making noticeable headway in meeting said traffic need. Little more can be asked of the city and the major improvements taking place on its roadways.

Enhancements, one hopes, that will help disprove and dispel these once-merited longtime complaints about traveling by car through Lincoln.

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