Q: For several years, I have been trying to figure out the logic of allowing all three lanes on southbound Goodlette-Frank Road turn left when they reach the light at the Trail. This light allows east-west travel on the Trail for a very long time. Ordinarily, at most intersections, the righthand lane on Goodlette-Frank would be reserved for motorists wishing to turn right towards the center of Naples. But one car planning to turn left can block the righthand lane where motorists could normally turn right on red when there is a break in westbound traffic on the Trail.
— Fred Yarrington, Naples
A: Your observations are spot on, Fred, and you are not the only one pondering this local traffic situation.
In observing just one traffic light sequence at that intersection last week, three motorists southbound on Goodlette-Frank Road couldn't make a right turn on red onto Fifth Avenue South toward downtown Naples because the first vehicle in that outside lane was waiting to turn left to cross the Gordon River Bridge. None of the vehicles could make a turn, of course, until the light turned green. If the first vehicle had not stopped for a left turn, all three vehicles behind it would have had an opportunity to turn right on red.
The solution may seem simple, but this Naples traffic issue is more complicated than it seems at first. Instead of eliminating left turns from that third lane, the city's proposed solution is to create a fourth southbound lane — a right-turn-only lane — during future redevelopment of the former Grand Central Station site that abuts the western edge of Goodlette-Frank Road on that corner, said George Archibald, the city's traffic engineer.
First, understand that the traffic intersection design at this location is not an accident. In fact, an effort to prevent accidents is one of the reasons a dedicated, right-turn-only lane no longer exists at that intersection, which didn't always have three left turn lanes, Archibald said.
"Historically, the three southbound lanes on Goodlette-Frank Road approaching U.S. 41 allocated the two inside lanes to the southbound left turn movement and the outside lane to the southbound right turn movement," he said. "Over the years, as the volume of traffic on Goodlette-Frank Road increased, the two inside lanes backed up from U.S. 41 to the Third Avenue South intersection (at Bayfront). This backup caused peak-period delays to the southbound left turn movement, and because the outside lane was not being utilized to any great degree, right-angle crashes began occurring at the Goodlette-Frank/Third Avenue South intersection."
The solution to both traffic issues — the increase in crashes and the southbound left turn delays because of backups — was to allow southbound left turn movements from all three lanes, Archibald said.
"The implementation of this traffic control measure resolved the safety issue and reduced the delays to the southbound left turns during the peak hours," he said. "The downside to this traffic control measure was an increase in the delay to the 'permissive' southbound right turn movement — right turns on red — since this movement is sharing the outside lane with the southbound left turn movements. In behalf of the vehicle operators making the southbound right turn movement, the long-term solution to their delay issue is the addition of a fourth southbound lane that would be a 'right-turn only' lane."
While the right of way and implementation of this future lane is planned in coordination with the adjacent property's redevelopment plan, know that traffic at this location is regularly monitored by the city for both turning movement volumes and signal cycle delays. In fact, Archibald said traffic monitoring cameras give the city's traffic operations center a birds-eye view of the intersection.
White diamonds on traffic arms
Q: What are the white diamond/squares on the light bars at some intersections?
— Doug B., Naples
A: With all the newfangled cameras, lights, devices and other odd things attached to mast arms and poles at intersections nowadays, I had not noticed these diamond-shaped objects until receiving this question. They aren't at every local intersection, but are used sporadically around town.
Collier County spokeswoman Connie Deane relayed this explanation for the objects from the county's Traffic Operations staff:
"The diamond-shaped devices that he noticed on the traffic signal mast arms are wireless network antennas used to connect traffic signals to the Collier County Traffic Operation's fiber optic network. They work like a home wireless network, but they extend much farther and use a different frequency. It is a secured network that only transmits encrypted traffic signal data and streaming video."
Collier's Traffic Operations staff members continually monitor roads and traffic flow in unincorporated Collier County. They alter signal timing and make other changes by observing traffic movement via real-time data, including streaming video from intersection cameras — completely unrelated to cameras that photograph red-light runners.
The diamond-shaped antennas on the traffic signals and its associated wireless network are just a small part of sophisticated communication technology used today by Traffic Operations.
"Collier County has an ever-growing network of over 160 managed traffic signals that we maintain with our automated traffic management system," the county's Traffic Operations staff reports. "This system allows the Traffic Management Center staff to monitor and make remote changes, if needed, to improve traffic operations. The majority of those integrated traffic signals are connected to a secure network of underground fiber optic cables. Sometimes, however, it is not practical to run an underground fiber optic conduit to a traffic signal, because of the expense or other underground conflicts. In those cases, the wireless network is used."
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.