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City lights timed for 'most green' in traffic

Why aren't the traffic signals on major thoroughfares in Medford synchronized? It seems every time I drive on either East Barnett Road or Main Street, no matter what time of day, I have to stop at every signal. The benefits of synchronized signals would be improving traffic progression and reducing vehicle emissions, both of which Medford could use.

— Julie K., Medford

We got some answers after talking to Cory Crebbin, Medford's director of public works, who said synchronizing lights is a complicated matter. And, by the way, those two streets are synchronized.

"Barnett Road is synchronized at certain times of the day," he said. Because traffic is different at different times of the day, synchronizing can be difficult, he said. The direction of travel also complicates the job because more traffic may travel in one direction at certain times of the day.

"We try to give the most green time to the heaviest traffic," Crebbin said.

Traffic signals not being evenly spaced also makes them difficult to synchronize.

Main Street is synchronized except at Central and Riverside because those streets are synchronized instead. Right now, west of Central, Main Street is synchronized because it has heavier movement than the side streets.

"Mathematically, it is not possible to synchronize streets perpendicular to each other," Crebbin said. "It's a time-and-space-geometry problem that can't be solved. "

The city received a grant to install special software on Crater Lake Avenue between Jackson Street and Coker Butte, called adaptive signal timing software, Crebbin said. So rest assured, the city is working to make your drive smoother, even if it doesn't appear so.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.