Why does a left-turn signal go green when no cars are there?

A commuter noticed the anomaly at an intersection on Everett Mall Way.

Recently, this column answered a reader’s question about traffic signal timing on Broadway in Everett.

The timing there turned out to be a vestige of pre-coronavirus traffic congestion.

Questionable timing at a different set of Everett lights got the attention of another reader.

Howard Vining takes Everett Mall Way to I-5 every day. He noticed that “something seems wrong” at the intersection with Central Mall Drive, the glorified driveway to the Olive Garden’s new or old locations.

“No matter the time of day, the northbound/southbound signals will switch to left turns, even if there’s no cars waiting in the lanes,” he said. “It seems like it’s been happening every time since I’ve been paying attention, and seems like something that should not be happening on purpose …”

His keen eye was right. There is something wrong at that intersection.

Usually a vehicle detection loop — an electromagnetic sensor that registers when a vehicle drives over it in the road — triggers the signal. But it’s broken.

“We discovered that the vehicle detection loop for that left turn was damaged earlier this year,” Everett traffic engineer Tim Miller said in an email.

The fix will take a while. It’s not like checking the breaker box for a fuse that blew.

Everett staff can’t repair the damage, so a contractor is needed. Once that’s required, the city waits until there are several repairs for that one contract.

“To maximize our resources, we seek these services when we accumulate multiple repairs that can be made with the same contract,” Miller said. “While we don’t have a current estimated date of repair, we are hopeful that it will be repaired in the next several months.”

Everett’s traffic center stopped gathering data because of how abnormal flow is these days. Miller said traffic volumes generally are 40% to 50% below average. So fewer people are out and about, which may exaggerate the feel of time passing while waiting on a turn signal without any vehicles using it.

In the interim, the city changed the signal timing to decrease the delay. But until the sensor is repaired, the left turn will come on each cycle just in case a vehicle is there. After all, who would enjoy sitting at the left turn and not have it go green?

Have a question? Email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

More in Local News

After escaping on Wednesday, an emu named Sarah has been safely returned to AJ's Acre, a farm located near the Alexander Road and the Mukilteo Speedway. (AJ's Acre)
An escaped emu is returned to its farm in Mukilteo

Missing since Wednesday, the female bird was noticed by a neighbor and safely recovered Saturday.

Erin Staadecker (left-right) Jael Weinburg and Kaylee Allen with Rosie formed the Edmonds firm Creative Dementia Collective. The company helps memory care patients and care-givers by providing art, music and other creative therapies. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
This startup offers artful therapy for dementia patients

Creative Dementia Collective uses art and music to help them — and their caregivers.

The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is prepared for injection Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena. (Snohomish Health District) 20210305
New vaccination site opens at Angel of the Winds Arena

Meanwhile, supply is still an issue now that teachers and child care workers are seeking shots.

Broadway closed after ‘small explosive device’ is found

The Everett Police Department bomb squad responded and “rendered it inert.”

People experiencing homelessness along Smith Avenue would need to find a new area to live if the Everett City Council passes a no-sit, no-lie ordinance. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Public speaks out against Everett’s ‘no-sit, no-lie’ proposal

The ordinance would target homeless people near the site of a proposed village of small shelter dwellings.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Inslee: The president made me speed up teacher vaccinations

Here’s what’s happening on Day 54 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

A Boeing 787 operated by All Nippon Airways taxis under a rainbow created by fire trucks at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Seattle, during an official welcome ceremony after it landed on the first day of service for the aircraft on ANA's Seattle-Tokyo route. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Last Everett-built Boeing 787 rolls off the assembly line

Production of the once-hot Dreamliner is being consolidated at the company’s South Carolina plant.

Darlene Tanis sorts through book titles Thursday morning at the Everett Library on March 4, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Shrinking the ‘digital divide,’ area libraries slowly reopen

This week, services such as computer and Wi-Fi use — and even book-browsing — were reinstated.

Everett woman, 20, charged after allegedly stabbing roommate

Multiple surgeries saved the injured woman’s life after she was stabbed in the heart and a lung.

Most Read