In recent months it has become evident that Salt Lake traffic signals on many roads are badly out of sync. Since a stop light can reduce a road's capacity by half, this is a problem far more serious than calming the frustrations of disgruntled motorists.
City, county and state traffic analysts admit a problem exists and say that one of the reasons is that officials in various jurisdictions have made no effort in the past to coordinate signals in the valley.A movement is under way to change this. Last year, local and state engineers formed a committee to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, nine months of work have done little more than produce a list of problem intersections where the need for better signal coordination is most critical.
Once these signals on major arteries are better synchronized, the committee's intent is to work on lesser-used streets. Obviously, this type of project could and probably will continue indefinitely in order to be sensitive to continually changing traffic patterns.
However, the fact that this study has taken nine months and has only begun to deal with the problem calls attention to another major problem - lack of personnel. There is only one person in each of the three government entities who is assigned to work with traffic lights, in spite of the existence of appropriate equipment to produce a better coordinated system.
A recent appropriation has alleviated the personnel problems somewhat, funding three more positions for the Utah Department of Transportation - but it is not enough.
Carefully synchronized signals can do much to create smooth-flowing traffic, which in turn conserves energy and improves the environment. It is common knowledge that the fewer stops a vehicle makes, the less fuel it consumes and the less pollution its idling engine spews into the air.
Government officials need to put a higher priority on getting valley traffic signals synchronized.