Morning traffic seemed to slow to a crawl — almost gridlock — at Main Street and McGillen Avenue in the Village of Mattawan, off I-94 west of Kalamazoo. Not even a new eight-phase, fully-actuated intersection signal could keep school and commuter vehicles from being backed up all the way to the highway.
At near wit’s end after installation of a signal that self-adjusted to traffic flows, Mattawan leaders were ready to spend big bucks to obtain additional right-of-way and add a right-turn lane to ease congestion in the small village of about 2,000 people.
But then village officials decided to have a traffic engineer look at the problem.
Traffic engineers at Fleis & VandenBrink evaluated the new signal to see if it was working properly. The Grand Rapids-based firm, with six other Michigan offices, found the signal in working order and then studied the intersection’s traffic patterns, counts and level of service for different times of the day.
The engineers suggested a relatively simple and much more affordable solution to the backups: stagger school start times so there’s not so much traffic at one time.
“We were convinced our signal was not operating properly,” said Tom Anthony, the village’s public works superintendent. “For once, we were happy to be wrong.
“We had triple the traffic on school days (as students arrive along with commuters). By spreading the traffic out a little bit, it’s was not all packed into such a short amount of time.”
Mattawan’s experience shows why communities need to consult a traffic engineer sooner than later to avoid making costly mistakes with road infrastructure, Anthony said.
“A small investment up front can save the community from tremendous headaches and costs down the road,” Anthony added.
F&V, which launched a Traffic Services Group in 2013 with expertise in traffic signal optimization, traffic calming and pedestrian signals, also helped the village think through its future vision for development and how that could affect traffic.
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