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Mayor says Dogwood light complaints won't go away

It’s been three years since the traffic light patterns were changed on Dogwood Street, but the issue still hasn’t faded away. And according to Mayor Walter Jakeway, it never will.

“There’s still lots of complaints about Dogwood and it’s not going to go away,” Jakeway said at a council meeting Tuesday night. “I’ve done lots of capital projects and if after a number of years you’ve still got complaints, you’ve still got a problem.”

Jakeway, who has long believed the lights need to be adjusted, tried unsuccessfully to do just that this week.

He put forward a motion to have Dogwood Street traffic signal lights at 4th Avenue, 7th Avenue and Evergreen Road converted from the advanced left turn format to ‘on demand’ side street access – meaning no green left turn arrow, which would allow both south and north bound traffic to flow at the same time. Lights at Merecroft, 2nd and 9th avenues would stay the same.

“What I’ve observed in the three and a half years of having the lights the way they are, is only one person at the intersection is turning left and there’s frustration from all the drivers waiting for the cycle to go through,” Jakeway said.

The lights were reconfigured in June of 2009 at a cost of $470,000 at Dogwood intersections from Merecroft Road to 9th Avenue.

The goal was to improve safety by allowing vehicles to turn left off of Dogwood unobstructed.

But the lights caused a flood of complaints over software malfunctions and long waits at frequent red lights.

The lights started to irritate even city councillors.

“Today going north-bound I hit a red light at 4th, I hit a red light at 7th and I hit a red light at 9th at about 4:56 in the afternoon. Is there not anyway we could please better synchronize the lights?” Coun. Andy Adams asked city staff at a council meeting in early October of 2010.

Staff did eventually tweak the lights earlier this year.

Adams acknowledged Tuesday that at the time he was especially rough on Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations.

“I was a very strong dissatisfied customer with the Dogwood lights when they first went in and I was very vocal to Mr. Neufeld and his staff to achieve some flow,” Adams said, addressing Neufeld. “Now that the flow is significantly improved, would there be any adverse impacts in having an on-demand system?”

Neufeld said staff do not recommend a change as the new system strikes a balance between safety and efficiency.

Coun. Claire Moglove said she could not support Jakeway’s motion because the new traffic signals have achieved the city’s goals – to make Dogwood safer.

“At 7th and Dogwood we had six (accidents) in 2007, five in 2008, four in 2011 (after the lights were reconfigured),” Moglove said. “At 4th, we had nine in 2007, five in 2008 – one accident in 2011. At Evergreen, we had 15 accidents in 2007, 16 accidents in 2008, and five in 2011. I think the change in lights on Dogwood has done what it was intended to do.”

Jakeway argued that while those stats are great, they don’t reveal what type of accidents they were, meaning they were not necessarily caused by someone turning left.

However, Jakeway’s motion to change the lights at 4th, 7th, and Evergreen was defeated, with only Jakeway and Coun. Ron Kerr voting in favour.

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