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Editorial: Close Call

Sept. 13, 1996


Close calls

Waco traffic can cause heart to race with tight squeezes, fast lights

The issue:

Local traffic signals are among various traffic situations in town that could be potentially dangerous.

Our view:

Driver caution is always a good solution to traffic inconsistency.

The engines rumble, starting to strain as the drivers rev them to get off the line as fast as possible. As the green light flashes and the drivers hit the gas, a new car suddenly appears to broadside the others.

This is not some tragic racing accident. It is a situation any driver in Waco could face without the presence of delayed lights. The tiny window of time between the light change allows those who subscribe to 'green means go, yellow means go faster' credo to fly through the intersection unscathed.

In the city of Waco, the amount varies from a few seconds to none. No immediate information was available for the intersections near campus, said Rick Charlton, traffic operations manager.

Along Valley Mills Drive, all the lights run on a three-second delay, said Duane Schwarz, area engineer for McLennan County for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Perhaps one of the most confusing features of the Waco landscape is the abundance of one-way streets. Ease traffic strain? Maybe.

Charlton said there are no plans to change the bevy of one-ways near campus. The system has been in place for decades. The only way to really increase flow would be to widen the existing lanes, he said.

Coming off Interstate 35 northbound at the Fourth and Fifth streets exit can be harrowing if you're not used to it, since it lacks a yield sign. Drivers will just have to get along, because technically there's nothing wrong. According to national guidelines, since the off ramp does not enter the same lane as the frontage road, there is no need for a yield sign.

'Not everyone agrees with that, but that's why there's no sign,' said Schwarz.

Fair enough, but try getting from the off ramp to Fifth Street in between the two service stations. With any kind of traffic, the going can be a little harrowing.

Some good news, though. All the road construction on Interstate 35 just south of campus should be finished in approximately a month, Schwarz said. Near Highway 6, however, construction is scheduled to continue until December 1997.

Should Waco street plans change? The time may come with new businesses opening downtown to start considering an expansion of the current street plan.

The city may decide to keep the lights running on a very small delay, if any, on the lights near campus. If so, as abhorrent as this may sound to college students in a hurry everywhere, wait a second before lurching into an intersection.

Your insurance company will thank you.

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