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Seeing red


To the editor:

A recent op-ed, “Wag the Dog Dogfights,” contains falsehoods. This became obvious by the second line: “The city will not install a traffic light until an intersection has racked up a certain number of per capita fatalities. The opinion piece, then, implies that these fatalities drive “local politicians” to step in with “civic intervention.” I can say definitively that this is false, an urban myth.

For about three of the 30 years I worked for the Department of Transportation, I headed DOT’s intersection control unit, which conducts citywide traffic signal studies. Data collected includes traffic volumes and number of travel lanes by approach, intersection geometry, speed, pedestrian crossing volumes, gaps (in seconds) in flow on the main roadway, accident history, adjacent land use and proximity to schools and other traffic signals.  

That data is compared to the nine warrants detailed in the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The MUTCD is the gold standard in determining whether or not a traffic sign is needed or warranted. 

Many elected officials like to take credit and apply pressure for new signals. But, to their chagrin, local politicians have no influence over the approval of a signal; their only input is making a written request.  

The data and solid traffic engineering determines whether existing controls, usually stop signs on the minor roadway, are sufficient or warrant upgrading (to either an all-way stop or traffic signal).

Poorly researched reporting is harmful. It perpetuates misinformation, adds to mistrust of government and discredits the hard-working professionals serving people of our great city.

Joseph Cannisi


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