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New report warns Seattle’s traffic signals ‘trending towards failure’

If you think traffic is bad around Seattle, a new report warns the city’s entire system of traffic signals is heading towards a complete meltdown.

The report commissioned by the Seattle City Council examined all of the operations of the Seattle Department of Transportation. It finds 70 percent of Seattle’s traffic signals are in poor condition, many others aren’t working at all, and the system as a whole is “trending towards failure.”

The findings presented Tuesday say funding for SDOT’s signal operations are about $5.7 million for repairs, forcing the city to put off maintenance and take a “fix it when it breaks” approach.

The study says that’s leading to increased congestion, delays, and potentially accidents.

Among the findings, while signals are supposed to be re-timed once every three years, in Seattle that happens only once every seven years.

The study also found that faulty controllers led to 42 intersections going into “flash mode” in 2012. Signals at Fauntleroy Way SW and 35th Ave SW in West Seattle were singled out for failing several times because of frayed wires.

The report by an Oregon-based consulting firm recommends the city do more preventative maintenance and replace parts earlier rather than waiting for them to fail. It suggests while short term costs would increase, it would lead to significant savings in the long run.

While the report called out the signal management, it gave high marks to the city for a number of other areas, saying SDOT is operating consistent with best practices or is considered a best practice leader in the industry when it comes to things like management, street maintenance, street use operations and urban forestry.

The City Council and SDOT will use the report’s findings to improve the department’s performance and prioritize budgets for the coming year.

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