Blogs | Ethan Shorey

It's all about the traffic lights

I'll admit that I have a bit of an obsession with traffic lights. These inanimate objects hold so much power to control daily life, but we often barely notice them as we go about our business. A traffic signal left unattended, over a period of years, can get so far off its original program that it starts backing up traffic for blocks - every day.

Last June I reached out to officials from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to see if anything could be done about the lengthy travel times I was noticing along MSA in North Providence, especially near the intersection of Rte. 146. What I was told was that the lights along the state's busiest two-lane road hadn't been optimized in "two to four" years, but that DOT employees would get on it immediately.

Within months, I was informed by the DOT that workers had completed a study and optimization of the lights and were seeing a drop in travel times of 14 to 30 percent along MSA's busiest stretch. In the year since, I've noticed a number of times (with the exception of that rainy day when everyone came to see Mary on the cross) that my drive along MSA is much quicker and easier.

I'm reminded of traffic lights again this week in a letter from North Providence resident Dennis Varone, who is complaining that he sometimes has to wait 10 or 15 minutes on Douglas Avenue as he tries to cross MSA.

"Please help!" writes Varone to conclude his letter.

Mr. Varone, I'm not sure if I can help with your commute, especially because state officials have emphasized that traffic on the main MSA line takes priority, but I sure will ask. I'll do that because that's what local newspapers are for. We're here to ask questions, to expose, to inform, to build community, and maybe even to improve the quality of your life a little bit by asking the questions you just don't have the time to ask.

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