SDOT review reveals traffic signals 'trending toward failure'

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:


SEATTLE - KIRO 7 discovered an in-depth review of Seattle Department of Transportation reveals traffic signals not working and in poor condition, to the point of being described as "trending toward failure."

It's a problem that some residents are calling a safety issue. The report says lights at 42 intersections went into flash mode because of failing equipment, and says the failures cause "increased traffic congestion,

delays and, potentially accidents" with the city potentially on the hook. An intersection highlighted in the report is Fauntleroy Way Southwest and 35th Avenue Southwest, right off the West Seattle Bridge.

Amber McFarland said she saw the traffic lights stop working and start flashing last year. "There's a long wait to get from right there to right here," she said, adding that she was able to look across the intersection

at her workplace, Seattle Sun Tan. She said the intersection became a crowded four-way stop and it took nearly 15 minutes to get through the traffic.

KIRO 7 showed her the report, which says a frayed wire caused flashing here several times in 2012 and that these kinds of problems are likely to become more common as wiring ages.

Nathan Morraquin, who waited for those lights to cross the street with his son and nephew, said it's a safety issue. "That would be terrifying," he said. "It would be kind of scary."

According to the report, SDOT acknowledges that 70 percent of its traffic signals have at least one part in "poor condition."

The report also said SDOT is short more than $5.7 million to replace and repair traffic signals.

McFarland said the city needs to find the money somewhere. "I would never want somebody to miss a light or to have a light flashing, and not know when their turn is and hit me or my children," she said.

"It's just not safe." In its reply to the city auditor, SDOT didn't specifically address the signal maintenance problems but did mention budget cuts. The report also touches on parking and pavement conditions

and areas where it says SDOT excels, like pothole repairs and customer service.

City Council members are scheduled to review the report, "SDOT Operational, Management, and Efficiency Analysis," Tuesday morning.