Jeramey Jannene

Should Milwaukee Traffic Lights Flash Red Overnight?

Idea intended to prevent red-light runners from crashing into innocent drivers.

By - Jan 5th, 2023 01:04 pm
Red traffic lights at N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Red traffic lights at N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. with crash debris on the street Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“Green means go. Red means stop.” They’re two simple phrases this reporter has spent the past couple of weeks working on with his one-year-old daughter.

It’s also a practice multiple city officials would like more drivers to observe. And until that happens, the City of Milwaukee could pursue some drastic changes to how certain intersections work.

Alderman Robert Bauman would like the Department of Public Works to explore setting the city’s traffic lights to flash red from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. He said it would protect law-abiding citizens by effectively turning intersections into four-way stops.

“There is a point where these are not just engineering and technical issues. They’re life and death,” said Bauman to the Public Works Committee on Wednesday morning.

A Concordia neighborhood resident, Bauman said he already approaches green lights with caution at N. 27th St. and W. Wells St. and other intersections where he’s observed drivers running red lights.

He praised DPW major project managers David Tapia for initially suggesting the flashing-red idea. But Urban Milwaukee notes suggest Bauman is likely the one who first publicly floated the idea back in 2021.

“A green light is an invitation to play Russian roulette,” said the alderman in November 2021 as he suggested the option. “I almost pray for a red light now.” (Bauman, in a message after this article was first published, says Tapia gave him the idea in a private meeting).

Flash forward to 2023, and Bauman has found support from Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II and new City Engineer, Kevin Muhs.

“That’s certainly something we can take a look at,” said Muhs. “I want to note, alderman, that I too don’t just start going when it turns green.”

Muhs said with many of the city’s major streets designated connecting highways by the state, the city would need Wisconsin Department of Transportation support to implement the policy at many key intersections. He said it would be helpful if a peer city was doing something similar and could be cited as an example. “It isn’t necessarily that they’re opposed to these concepts. It is that they don’t have familiarity and comfort with them.” Muhs praised Tapia for bringing the state many ideas and examples related to various traffic-calming strategies the city is working to introduce.

Categories: Transportation, Weekly

3 thoughts on “Should Milwaukee Traffic Lights Flash Red Overnight?”

  1. Wardt01 says:

    I’m surprised that there is no published data from any municipality in the US on this idea. I’d guess that majority of the time the speeding/offending vehicle is traveling along the primary street (vs the cross street) & perhaps this should be factored into the decision?

    I’d also be curious if there’s any studies on moving bus stops to mid-block locations instead of at the intersection could improve safety due to improved visibility by not having the shelters at intersections.

  2. DAGDAG says:

    YES! Wardt01 has a very valid point regarding busses stopping in front of the lights! What a waste of time and gas to keep it idling there, and block right turn on red turning traffic, when simply moving it across the street would be a simple thing to do. Perhaps they would have to put that concrete pad when roads are redone to the side across from the light to support it…but it would be a simple fix and free up the corners–and be safer for pedestrians that walk out hidden by a bus when the step out to cross the street as well. I mentioned this to my alder(person) years back, and they looked at me like I was speaking a different language. The City needs to talk to the County to coordinate it– instead of just arguing all the time.

  3. Polaris says:

    Yes on getting the data, and yes of moving bus stops! Down here in Chicago, most bus stops are immediately after the intersection. Also the case in other cities…

    Apparently, such uncommon common sense in some parts…

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