I-Team: Who Gets a Traffic Light? - 8 News NOW

Mark Sayre, Investigative Reporter

I-Team: Who Gets a Traffic Light?

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If you live in one of the newer areas of the valley, you can probably think of an intersection near your home that could use a stop sign or a stoplight.

When an accident happens -- you'll want to know why a light was not installed before the crash.

There's not much that gets people upset like a serious accident at an uncontrolled intersection.

When they happen local roads crews are swamped with complaints and demands to get a stop sign or a stoplight installed immediately.

But it's not that easy.

The I-Team's Mark Sayre spent an entire week with a Clark County crew as it studied one local intersection.

It's an intersection like hundreds of others in the valley... Tenaya and Robindale.

Cars stop in both directions on Tenaya, but not on Robindale, where the posted 35-mile-an hour speed limit is routinely ignored.

So should this intersection be upgraded to a four way stop?

Enter Clark County traffic workers, Paul Couture and McKensy Long.

It's a Monday, and they are beginning what's officially called a "traffic warrant study."

The first goal -- to get an accurate traffic count.

How many cars go by, and when? To do that the crew nails down tubes.

Paul Couture, pointing to one said, "This is a pneumatic tube that's used to count vehicles that go by. It is actually controlled by air pressure, counts each axle that goes over the tube itself."

Spray paint is used so street sweepers don't destroy the tubes.

They are then connected to an electronic counter box, called the "trax plus."

"We capture Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday -- three 24-hour counts to capture all the data we can," said Couture.

As the crew leaves for the day, the traffic counters are left behind to silently do their work.

"This morning we are going to do all of our pictures," said Couture.

Couture and Long are back on the job... it's a Tuesday.

"We're going to take all of our approach distance pictures," adds Couture.

They take many pictures from every sightline, about 40 angles in all, with the goal being to capture exactly what drivers see.

"And if you notice when he takes the pictures, he's crouched over -- that's taking the picture from an average driver's perspective in a vehicle," said Couture.

Every detail is carefully noted.

"And this will be able to tell you if you have a sight visibility program with landscaping or trees or such."

It's all about precision.

"Instead of 242 feet of visibility... you are only at 153," said Couture.

But the crew presses on.

On day three...  a Wednesday, Couture and Long are out yet again.

Today, it's time for measurements.

Using what is essentially a rolling tape measure, the crew measures the intersection.

And all the while, the traffic counter continues to silently do its work. It may seem like a lot work for just one intersection... and it is.

Every measure of data here is technically called a "warrant" -- which is compared to federal standards.

Bobby Shelton, from Clark County Public Works said, "We do the counts for about a 24 hour period and then we look at peak-hour travel time as well and non-peak hour travel time. We look at pedestrians that might use the intersection if we are looking at having crosswalks installed."

Tenaya and Robindale -- and after three days of field work, this 'traffic warrant study' now moves indoors.

It's now Friday, inside the Clark County Government Center. Couture is at his computer, creating detailed technical drawings from all the data collected during the week.

"We'll do about 2 or 3 hours a day in the field... and then there's probably about 12 hours of actual work in the office that needs to be done," said Couture.

But, in the end, it is a thick Federal Highway Administration manual that holds the answer to the future of this intersection.

Will all eight federal requirements be met? Will a new stop sign go in here?

At minimum, the feds say there must be between 150 and 600 vehicles an hour for at least eight hours during the day.

So how did Robindale and Tenaya do? These final study results tell the story.

It did not meet any of the federal requirements -- so no new stop sign will go in there.

And these work crews are very busy.

Last year alone, they studied more than 100 local intersections.

If the federal requirements are met, is the county required to put in a stop sign or stoplight?

The short answer is no.

But the county says it makes it a policy to act as quickly as possible when it finds a change is justified.

Cost is always an issue, so there is a waiting list.

Email your comments to Reporter Mark Sayre.
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