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Stop: no light needed

October 29, 2012
Lake Placid News

The village of Lake Placid recently announced plans to request a study to determine whether or not to place a permanent traffic light at the intersection of Saranac Avenue (state Route 86) and Wesvalley Road. But placing another traffic light in the village is a bad idea.

Indeed, there are times when there are several vehicles trying to turn on Saranac Avenue from the aforementioned side street, but the same is true for other roads that enter Route 86 such as Hillcrest Avenue. There is already a traffic light at the Cold Spring Shopping Plaza where Hannaford's is located, and another traffic light in such close proximity could have a negative impact.

Most of the traffic that was created coming from Wesvalley was caused by the detour from Old Military Road, and that congestion is no longer present. But a study of the situation may be useful.

Here is some information gathered from the state Department of Transportation's website in regard to a study to determine if a traffic light is needed:

The agency uses a set of measurable criteria to evaluate each request received in accordance with current engineering standards and principles.

An engineer is assigned to the case, and the location is observed and inspected and traffic conditions are documented. Based on all the data and information collected, a determination is made on the most appropriate safety improvement that can be taken.

Specifically, the engineer conducts a thorough on-site review of the intersection, observes traffic movements, collects data on vehicle and pedestrian traffic usage, then analyzes three years of accident history of the intersection. Given the significant number of requests for traffic signals received, there is admittedly, some time lag until the engineer can begin the investigation. Also, the collection of is often a time-consuming process, since time of day, weather conditions, time of year and other factors can affect traffic pattern.

The engineer evaluates the site based on a series of criteria. Generally, the evaluation includes answers to the following questions:

Does the accident history of the area indicate that a traffic signal will reduce the probability of collisions?

Is the traffic on the main street so heavy that drivers on the side street try to cross when it is unsafe?

Is there a significant number of school children crossing at the specific location to justify special control for their safety, and, if so, is a traffic signal the right choice?

Does the number of pedestrians at the specific intersection create confusion, congestion or hazardous conditions?

Are there so many cars on each street that a signal is needed to clear up confusion or relieve congestion?

Would a traffic signal help drivers maintain a uniform pace along the route without having to stop unnecessarily?

Is there a combination of any of the above criteria which indicates that a signal would be an improvement?

Based on the findings, NYSDOT determines whether or not the installation of a traffic signal would improve safety and mobility and is therefore appropriate for that intersection.

Plus side: When a signal is installed under conditions that justify its use, it is invaluable in improving the safety and efficiency of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. A traffic signal can also improve the flow of traffic.

Minus side: If a traffic signal is placed at an intersection that does not necessarily need one, it can cause an increase in rear-end collisions, excessive delay, disobedience of signals or the diversion of traffic to local residential streets. These factors are carefully weighed to assure that a traffic signal would not create more problems than it would solve at a particular location.

There are several of these points that the intersection of Saranac Avenue and Wesvalley Road do not meet. Thankfully one of them is the accident history at the proposed site. There seems to be more accidents down the road at Old Military and Route 86.

There is also no blockage to hinder a driver's view or a multitude of school children or pedestrians.

Do we really need a light there? Does it meet the specified DOT basic guidelines?

If the only reason to add a traffic light is to help a small percentage of drivers enter state Route 86, then a light is not justified, and a request for a DOT study should not be made - the state spends enough money, and this study will not be free.

With all that said, village mayor Craig Randall said he wants public input on the matter. One way for residents and visitors to voice their opinion on the proposed traffic light is to do so via this newspaper.

Send a letter to the editor to be published right on this editorial page. That can be done by emailing:

There is also a Web poll at Just visit that site and scroll down. It will be located on the right-hand side.



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