By Nicole Hennessy
Along Detroit Avenue there are cloaked traffic lights and crosswalks ready to be installed.
Part of a citywide initiative to update signs and signalization, these are the third and fourth phases of a project that will include Clifton, Madison and Detroit roads.
Slowly, the new signs and signals are being implemented on Detroit, and by the end of the summer, signals between Ridgewood and Arthur will be synchronized, improving half the busy road’s traffic flow. Phase 3 of the city’s signal update will include the rest of Detroit, between Lakeland and Sloane.
Having been awarded federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds, the city has to pay for just 20 percent of the $3 million project.
Joe Beno, Lakewood’s director of public works, said the new traffic lights are significantly better at sensing motorcycles and bicycles, which is a welcome improvement in such a bike-friendly city.
Confirming this commonly held belief, bike racks recently were installed along Detroit, accompanied by signs that make the racks easy to see from the street. But it’s not like the city went out of its way to seek this feature out.
“It’s really just how the new technology works,” said Beno. The cameras on the lights can be adjusted to widen the zone, so as to notice cyclists near the curb.
“You gotta watch that you don’t start picking up pedestrians at a crosswalk,” he said, adding that if a light isn’t properly detecting cyclists, residents are usually quick to inform the city, which then adjusts the problem.
People familiar with driving in Lakewood know that the intersection at Warren and Detroit tends to get backed up – but Beno said part of him hopes the new lights don’t improve this problem.
“It’s actually a good sign that there is a lot of people going through that intersection,” he said, mentioning the shopping center driveway a few feet away.
On the other hand, he went on to explain, Warren is the busiest intersection in the city, and with traffic lights at every block, it’s unrealistic to expect there to be much change, despite the appropriate timing and programming of the new lights.
Actually, it’s the traffic on the side streets that determines the signalization on Detroit.
“These new signals are connected by radio communication as opposed to buried or overhead cables,” Beno said. So, whether or not they prove to work better, the weather will affect them much less.
After the Detroit project is complete, the city will move on to improving Madison’s signalization, which is being planned now. Clifton’s renovation is already complete.
In a press release describing the process, Mayor Mike Summers thanked drivers.
“We appreciate the patience of motorists in our city as we complete this traffic improvement project,” he wrote.