Redesigned Mercer corridor continues to frustrate drivers

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SEATTLE - Driver frustration continues to boil over congestion along the new Mercer Street corridor in Seattle, just days after it opened to two-way traffic.

Many drivers want to know why traffic lights aren’t timed better to improve traffic flow. A lot of people KIRO 7 spoke with Wednesday said the lights only make the problem worse.

It took 20 minutes for Margaret Diehl to move just two blocks along the corridor Wednesday. She said the lights were no help as drivers clogged the intersections.

“Our light – it would turn green when it was all filled up, so we couldn’t go anywhere,” she said.

A KIRO 7 crew had a similar experience driving east on Mercer toward Interstate 5. The crew passed one green light, but before making it to the next intersection, the light turned red. The same thing happened at the next intersection.

By the time our crew passed Westlake Avenue, they managed to make two greens in a row before being stopped at Fairview.

“It’s a work in progress and it will continue to be a work in progress,” Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan said.

He admitted the lights along Mercer aren’t timed correctly. He said traffic engineers are on the corridor all day, every day and are making adjustments.

“We’re gonna continue to tweak those signals to make them work the best we can for the Mercer corridor,” he said.

He said light timing is challenging now that traffic is merging onto Mercer from all directions and new turn lanes have been created.

One improvement, Sheridan said, is that the South Lake Union Streetcar no longer overrides the timed lights. It has to wait, just like other vehicles.

Drivers like Barbara Hirsch say other light-timing improvements can’t come quickly enough.

“They need to work on that soon,” she said.

Sheridan said it could be a matter of days or weeks before the lights are to a point where they help more than hurt with congestion.