Rod Watson: Stop with the red lights, before drivers go mad - The Buffalo News
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Rod Watson: Stop with the red lights, before drivers go mad

Forget about tearing down the Skyway. Instead, let’s build some more. That might be the only way to bring sanity to the streets.

The best thing to come out of the debate over whether to replace or rehab the Skyway is the promise to consider synchronizing the traffic lights on alternate routes while repair work is done. If that’s what it takes to get synchronization on Delaware Avenue, Elmwood Avenue and any other street where motorists sit fuming at red lights — wasting time, gas and nerve cells — let the construction begin.

But the promise does raise one obvious question: Why weren’t lights on those alternate routes — and many others — already synchronized?

Traffic engineers will tell you many are. But except for the Elm-Oak arterial, you can’t prove it by me.

In fact, I did try to prove it. As one who takes the expressway whenever possible, no matter how far out of the way it takes me, I forced myself to try the city streets. If ever the lights would be synchronized, you’d think it would at the end of the work day to expedite traffic out of downtown.

So what happened around 4:15 p.m. on a work day?

Turning north from Scott Street onto Washington Street, I make two lights before getting stopped at Swan. As soon as the light turns green, I take off — only to see South Division turn red. As soon as that turns green, North Division turns red. I must have been crazy; I could have been home by now on the expressway.

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There’s been a lot of talk about how to keep tourists in Buffalo longer, but this can’t possibly be what they mean.

I go one more block and get stopped at East Eagle Street, before finally making three lights, only to get stopped again at East Huron.

I feel road rage coming on — and it’s not directed at other drivers. Fearing what I might do — just run the light as a form of civic protest? — I have to get off of Washington. So I cut across Chippewa Street — getting stopped, of course, at Pearl Street and again at Franklin.

I go down Delaware to Niagara Square to start over — stopping at the red light on the east side of the square.

Proceeding up Delaware at about 25 mph, I get stopped at Mohawk, then again at West Huron. The light at West Chippewa turns red just as the traffic approaches, so we wait again. We get stopped briefly at Tupper.

Then, miraculously, we make the lights at both Edward and Virginia. Catching two greens in a row in Buffalo is an "Oh, my God!" moment, tantamount to a traffic orgasm. I glance in the mirror at the driver behind me, and I can tell it was good for him, too.

Alas, it doesn’t last. It never does.

We catch a red light at Allen Street, then North Street turns red just as we approach. It’s all I can take. I burn rubber for the nearest expressway.

This is crazy, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Traffic lights are a recurring theme in letters to Everybody’s Column. And last year, WYRK disc jockey Dale Mussen logged his own trip up Delaware. He had far more patience than I did, making it all the way to Kenmore Avenue. But he paid the price, stopping at 14 of the 29 lights.

And we call this a progressive city?

But wait, maybe that’s it. Maybe the traffic lights in Buffalo are synchronized — for bicyclists, not motorists.

The thought calms me down, knowing there’s logic behind the madness.

After all, I’d hate to think Buffalo is just stupid.

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