What's up with the new traffic lights in Post Falls?

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  • BRIAN WALKER/Press Traffic passes through the future signalized intersection of Seltice Way and Henry Street in Post Falls on Friday. The intersection is one of three near the Seltice Way-Spokane Street intersection in which the new lights will be turned on later this month to mitigate traffic congestion.

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    New signalized intersections are planned at Seltice Way-Henry Street, Seltice-Compton and Mullan Avenue-Spokane Street in Post Falls. The lights are expected to be turned on late this month to help mitigate traffic congestion.

  • BRIAN WALKER/Press Traffic passes through the future signalized intersection of Seltice Way and Henry Street in Post Falls on Friday. The intersection is one of three near the Seltice Way-Spokane Street intersection in which the new lights will be turned on later this month to mitigate traffic congestion.

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    New signalized intersections are planned at Seltice Way-Henry Street, Seltice-Compton and Mullan Avenue-Spokane Street in Post Falls. The lights are expected to be turned on late this month to help mitigate traffic congestion.

By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

POST FALLS — Jon Summers questions why new traffic signals are being added at three intersections near the busy crossing of Seltice Way and Spokane Street.

City officials expect the new lights installed at Seltice-Henry, Seltice-Compton and Mullan-Spokane will be in operation by the end of the month.

"They just seem like odd places to put them," said Summers, a Post Falls resident who drives on Seltice regularly.

However, Rob Palus, assistant city engineer, said the lights will mitigate traffic congestion in the corridor that is expected to increase with growth. The plan has been in the works for several years.

"The city's 2004 transportation master plan identified this as a safety and capacity problem and a study in 2010 on Seltice congestion came up with this solution," Palus said.

In an update to city council members about the project on Tuesday, Palus said staff has fielded many calls from residents inquiring about the signals in recent weeks. He said he expects that to continue after the lights are turned on.

"(Public input) is important to us to identify where the weaknesses are," he said. "We'll get a lot of information through the cameras and radar detectors, but if people give us their perspective that will help us even more."

Palus said the new signals will have "adaptive technology" that tracks the number and direction of vehicles so that traffic can continue to flow as well as possible.

"They think on their own so they can respond to changing traffic patterns," he said.

Palus said the new lights will also be coordinated with existing signals in the area to help traffic flow.

For example, he said southbound traffic on Spokane Street that has a green at the new signal at Mullan will ideally make make it all the way to Interstate 90 and through two other signals without having to stop.

Palus said that, when the lights are turned on, they will be calibrated based on today's traffic conditions. However, they will continue to be fine-tuned by a consultant on a week-to-week basis over the next six months.

Summers said he believes traffic currently flows well at the two intersections on Seltice, but he also appreciates the idea of planning long-term for growth.

"I don't notice any traffic problems now, but maybe this is a preemptive strike," he said.

Palus said the average time to travel through the busiest intersections in the corridor was 30 seconds during peak hours in 2004, but that average increased to 55 seconds in 2015.

At the current pace, if nothing was done, the time would be more than 100 seconds by 2028, Palus said.

"It would basically turn it into a parking lot," he said. "At 100 seconds, it may be three or four cycles before you get through an intersection."

The new signals should also improve traffic safety and provide better pedestrian access at the intersections, Palus said.

Council member Alan Wolfe said he's thought that some new signals in the city were a goofy idea only to later realize that they were a welcome addition. He said he trusts staff's analysis of the traffic flow situation.

Most of the $2 million signalization project was funded with a state grant. The city provided a match at $250,152.

For questions or input, contact Palus at rpalus@postfallsidaho.org.

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