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Have you noticed the Mercer Mess getting any better?

(File, KIRO Radio)

Seattle’s Mercer Mess is notorious for long backups and congestion, but the Seattle Department of Transportation says things are improving with a new signal system.

“Before installing our new system, wait times during the height of work-week rush hour backups (between 6-7 p.m.) was approximately 34 minutes … Today, during that exact same time frame, the wait is down to 17 minutes,” the Seattle Department of Transportation writes on its blog.

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SDOT says it has effectively cut drive times in half through the Mercer Street area over the past eight months. It’s crediting a new adaptive system controlling traffic lights between Third Avenue and I-5 along Mercer Street.  The new system installed in March — called SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique) — has senors monitoring each lane of traffic on the road. That information informs traffic lights.

The department admits that the times aren’t perfect, “by a long shot.”

According to SDOT’s data:

Before the Mercer Adaptive Signal:

  • 5 p.m. weekday – 14 minutes
  • 6 p.m. weekday – 16 minutes
  • 7 p.m. weekday – 18 minutes

After the Mercer Adaptive Signal:

  • 5 p.m. weekday – 4 minutes
  • 6 p.m. weekday – 6 minutes
  • 7 p.m. weekday – 7 minutes

That’s much better than the two seconds of improved time reported in 2016, after two years of construction and $74 million in upgrades. But it remains just as bad when Seattle was discussing the Mercer Mess in 1977.

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