City improves traffic signal timing along Hiawatha Avenue

Drivers are spending less time at red lights along Hiawatha Avenue, thanks to traffic signal timing improvements. New traffic control technology is reducing the impact light-rail trains have on the traffic signal operation along this busy highway. This technology, which was not around when the light-rail line began service in 2004, has slashed the longest wait times in half.

Drivers face a unique situation around Hiawatha Avenue: Trains running parallel to the highway cross high-volume local streets at speeds of 40 mph or higher, triggering frequent disruptions to neighborhood traffic. Unlike in downtown Minneapolis, where light rail trains need to stop when crossing traffic has the green light, the faster trains along Hiawatha always receive pre-emptive treatment and do not need to stop at intersections. Instead, the vehicle traffic must stop for the high-speed trains. The old traffic control technology installed as part of the original Hiawatha Light Rail Project had the traffic signal cycles starting over every time a train passed through, and waiting vehicles would often wait through another cycle to finally get a green light.

The new traffic signal technology takes into consideration driver wait times whenever light-rail trains come through. Once the trains pass by, vehicles that have waited the longest behind red lights will get green lights sooner.

City engineers measured red-light waits for drivers affected by light-rail trains along Hiawatha. The results show that the longest wait times have been drastically reduced:

In addition to these improvements, the new traffic management system skips a phase if there are no vehicles waiting. That way, drivers crossing Hiawatha will have shorter waits at red lights when there is no traffic on Hiawatha.

The City of Minneapolis led the multi-agency effort to improve the traffic signal operations on Hiawatha Avenue. This project was developed with partner agencies: Metro Transit, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Hennepin County. Expert rail and traffic signal consultants were also involved.

Visit the City's website for more information on the Hiawatha Traffic Signal Timing Project.

Last updated Feb 7, 2013