November 13, 2010

Are traffic lights on 13 inevitable?

Target #1 in my discussion of the proposed 'Commercial' zone has been traffic.

The Dryden Town Historical Society has a great picture of the western intersection of Routes 13 and 366 when 'new' 13 had just opened. 366 had a stop sign, and that was all. No lights, just some signs. The eastern junction is still like that, though fortunately with a left-turn lane.

I've heard talk since I first started listening to Varna residents of the likely need for a light at the 366 / Mount Pleasant / Freese Road intersection, with the 366 / Turkey Hill / Monkey Run / Forest Lane intersection a close second. Dangerous as those intersections are, though, I don't think they compare to 13 / Mineah / Kirk, 13 / Yellow Barn / Johnson, or 13 / Irish Settlement / George. Visibility is especially bad at the first of those, but various combinations of left and right turns make them all pretty random. 13 / Lower Creek isn't great, either, and just to the west of the town line I curse a lot at 13 and Brown Road.

If I remember right - I haven't always been paying attention - the state widened the highway a lot in its last major rework of 13. You can pretty much get around cars making left turns, except at intersections where you suddenly find both a left and a right turn in progress. Making a left on to 13 at any of these intersections is an adventure.

So will we get traffic lights, or maybe the recently fashionable traffic circle, at these intersections in the next decade or so, no matter what we do?

My guess is no. Traffic lights aren't cheap, and they don't seem especially popular with through traffic. New York State has gotten a little friendlier about lowering speed limits, but I suspect that they still have their eye on overall traffic capacity, something that traffic lights usually don't help.

Could we change that? Probably, if we come up with development that makes the traffic flow more clogged or more dangerous. I think the Department of Transportation can protect itself to some degree by limiting curb cuts - as they have on 13 between Warren Road and 366 - but they don't seem to have done much of that east of there.

Posted by simon at November 13, 2010 7:28 PM in ,
Note on photos


KAZ said:

As someone who regularly uses most of those intersections, I'm guessing no light will be forthcoming at any of them. My efforts to get a light at the HS entrance off 38 proved to me that it's volume of traffic, not potential danger, that convinces the powers that be. If cars were backing up Mt. Pleasant to Turkey Hill all day every day, that might lead to a light. The numbers of cars trying to make a left turn onto 366 are just not high enough to warrant a light, and ditto for the other intersections you mention.

My understanding - based on lot of random conversations that haven't yet gone anywhere - is that DOT is interested in three things:

1) Traffic volume. They like it, until a side road generates enough volume to be a problem.

2) Deaths. They notice these much more than just plain accidents.

3) Citizens. Once in a while, apparently, writing them helps. The removal of the the passing zone in Varna might have had something to do with that.

I guess you could rephrase my question: given existing patterns of development, even without a change in zoning, are we going to see enough of #1 and #2 to make DOT think more about this?

Give it a 10 or 20 year timeframe, and I don't think the answer is clear.