The easiest fix for traffic congestion on East Gore Boulevard is changing the timing of traffic signal lights, a traffic analysis shows.
City Council members accepted that analysis from Traffic Engineering Consultants Inc. and voted Tuesday to immediately implement the firm’s recommendation: buy new control equipment for the signal lights at Lawrie Tatum Road and the eastern I-44 ramp signal light.
The information came from Traffic Engineering Consultant’s Steve Hofener, as he outlined his firm’s analysis on a problem council members have complained about for years: traffic on Gore Boulevard east of Northwest/Southwest 2nd Street. Complaints in recent years have focused on the area between 2nd Street and Lawrie Tatum Road, which includes signal lights at both intersections, as well as Railroad Street in front of Lawton Public Safety Complex and the two I-44 on- and off-ramps. Residents say that combination of five lights worsens traffic congestion on the east Lawton arterial, particularly at rush hour. Council-debated solutions have included the removal of signal lights.
Hofener said differences in light operations at those five intersections present challenges. For example, each direction of the 2nd Street intersection works separately, with green lights rotating clockwise and giving each direction about 25 seconds. Railroad Street intersection’s east and west lanes operate separately, with longer times given to those directions, versus northbound and southbound lanes which operate together.
The bigger issue is Lawrie Tatum Road and eastern-most I-44 intersections, where signal lights are controlled by two systems that are decades old. Hofener said his company tried to adjust the timing for east/west traffic, to give those directions more time and lessen stacked up traffic on Gore Boulevard, but the controllers are so old they don’t allow adjustments.
That’s why Hofener’s suggestion is modernizing the control equipment at both intersections, allowing adjustments that would give eastbound and westbound traffic more time to pass through. He said each control system is about $3,000, and upgrading to that modern equipment would allow the city to adjust phasing times at each intersection. He said the city could make other adjustments by instituting flex time in the lights’ operation, setting a shorter period of time to move through the intersection in the morning, a longer time in the afternoon.
Timing adjustments also are possible at the Railroad Street intersection for east/west traffic, but they aren’t possible at 2nd Street because of the rotating nature of those directional movements, Hofener said. He said it may be possible to adjust that intersection to allow east/west traffic movements to work together, rather than separately.
Hofener also said the firm’s study indicates the traffic signal light is needed at Lawrie Tatum Road (one solution discussed by the council is removing the light). Hofener said traffic signal lights are placed based on traffic flow patterns, meaning a minimum number of vehicles passing through an intersection over a specific period of time.
“Those warrants are met there,” he said.
Ward 4 Councilman George Gill, who represents most of east Lawton, asked about the city’s 2006 agreement that specified the Lawrie Tatum Road light was to be temporary. Public Works Director Larry Wolcott said the idea was to move the Lawrie Tatum intersection east 600 to 700 feet, creating a longer distance between that light and the eastern most I-44 ramp signal light. (Traffic engineers say a half-mile is the minimum distance between signal lights for optimum operation). That plan couldn’t be finalized because of land ownership issues, Wolcott said.
Hofener said for the short term, adjusting the timing at the two intersections is the simplest solution to ease east/west congestion. Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren said the expense to install new controllers and protective boxes is worth it, calling the plan a short-term solution until a long-term solution can be found with tribal entities.
“It’s equipment we would use elsewhere if we need to,” Gill said, of what would happen if the equipment no longer is needed at Lawrie Tatum Road.