Timing those pesky Twin Cities traffic lights

Richfield and Bloomington drivers on streets next to Interstate 494 may soon be spending less time stopped at red lights. That’s what appears to be behind the Hennepin County board approval this week of spending $30,000 to hire a stop light timing consultant.

The county, MnDOT and the two cities want to “optimize” the timing of 43 signals between York Avenue and Highway 77 or Cedar Avenue.

The county says it has an overall goal of completing traffic signal timing on one-third of all coordinated traffic control signals annually.

This may sound like pretty small potatoes, but that’s probably not the view of the folks who drive those streets regularly. It’s certainly not the view of traffic engineers.

Better timed lights, they argue, improves traffic flow, saves lots of gas and obviously reduces pollution as cars spend less time idling at a dead stop. That’s the good news. The bad news is that many municipalities including Minneapolis, the state’s most populous city, no longer have the person power to do extensive signal timing.

Maybe the county action is the start of a change.

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