Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Dealing with congestion

by Lisa Seiser

January 26, 2012

Think about driving west on Main Street in downtown Lake Geneva on a sunny, warm Saturday in the middle of summer. You know there will be bumper-to-bumper traffic, stops at every light and at best a crawl through the gridlock.

Hold that thought.

City of Lake Geneva officials are looking closely at traffic signal system updates that would deal with congestion and delays through the downtown.

Crispell-Snyder transportation engineer Jeff Knudson presented last week to the Public Works Committee a summary of a traffic signal report the company performed on the three lights in downtown Lake Geneva. He suggested that with better timing and other improvements at the Main Street intersections at Broad, Center and Wells streets, traffic delay time could be cut in half.

He also estimated a 7 percent reduction in fuel consumption, or 7,000 gallons of fuel that could be saved by implementing the improvements.

Among the changes would be to interconnect the three traffic signals so there is less likely the chance that vehicles are stopped at more than one intersection on their way through downtown. The signals would in essence talk to each other to better manage the traffic flow.

Intersection turn signals would be set based on whether cars are in the turn lanes, and not just set to the same timing all day, every day. These types of signals currently are at the intersection of Sheridan Springs and Highway 120 at the Horizon Shell gas station.

The signal remains green longer on Highway 120 unless cars are approaching or waiting at Sheridan Springs Road.

Knudson said the typical delay time going through downtown is 100 seconds. He said the changes would cut that in half during the peak uses.

According to the traffic signal project report, the summary states a 17-percent reduction in total network delay, a 16-percent reduction in total stops and a 10-percent reduction in emissions.

Knudson presented moving computer models that showed how and why the traffic backs up, especially westbound on Main Street on a summer weekend. During busy weekends, the traffic can be backed up from downtown all the way to Highway 12.

"The critical flows you will be better equipped to handle," Knudson said.

The total cost for the project would be about $310,000, which is less than originally estimated by Crispell-Snyder. Funding will come from the city's Tax Incremental Financing District.

The signals at the Main Street intersections at Broad and Center streets are at least 30 years old. According to Crispell-Snyder's Sue Barker, the signs were installed in the 1970s and the 1980s. She also said the underground cable is worn out and the lights aren't compatible with the newer signals at Wells Street.

The Wells Street lights are from 2005 and they won't need much improvements other than countdown timers for pedestrian crossing.

Public Works Director Dan Winkler said in August the traffic signals are old enough that they should be considered for replacement anyway.

Street Department Superintendent Ron Carstenson agreed two of the three signals are just old.

"I think you'll see a big difference," he said. "We seriously need to do this."

Second District Alderman Tom Hartz said he believed the improvements to traffic flow would be worth the $310,000, about $250,000 of which is for construction of the area.

On Aug. 22, 2011, the council voted to pay engineering firm Crispell-Snyder up to $40,000 for a traffic study including counts, mapping and modeling to determine the value and benefits of upgrading the existing traffic signal system in the downtown.

Funding would come from money already collected through the city's Tax Incremental District.

The Public Works Committee accepted the proposal from Crispell-Snyder to replace the signals at the two intersections. The item is expected to be on the Feb. 13 council agenda for further discussion and possible action.