Catch an Outer Banks red light for no reason? NCDOT says they are working on it

Eckner Street is a repeat offender for red lights at 5 a.m. [Jody O’Donnell photo]

It’s happened to all of us at some point driving on U.S. 158 on the Outer Banks: You catch a red light, especially in the early morning or late at night, and there is nothing coming from the side street.

Or you’re on one of those side streets, and it’s taking forever to get a green light to get across or on to Croatan Highway.

The N.C. Department of Transportation says have a little patience, they are working on it.

During the Dec. 1 Nags Head Board of Commissioner’s meeting, town Public Services Director Eric Claussen briefed the town’s Board of Commissioners about traffic signal timing.

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We asked Tim Hass, Division 1 spokesperson for NCDOT, about what’s going on and what’s being done about it. Here’s what he had to say:

NCDOT recently completed retiming of the signal systems on the Outer Banks. One system runs from the Wright Memorial Bridge through 13th Avenue in Southern Shores.

The other runs from Kitty Hawk Road in Kitty Hawk through Seachase Drive in Nags Head. (Eckner Street in Kitty Hawk is not tied into either system and has its own controller.)

This work was done by an engineering firm, Mekuria Engineering, under contract through the Systems Timing group in Raleigh. This is typically done every five years or so or when traffic patterns or volumes have changed significantly. There are plans for peak summer season traffic as well as off-season traffic.

The traffic signal equipment and software currently used in Currituck and Dare counties, as well as the rest of Division 1, is about 20 years old. Since its installation there have been quite a few advances in traffic signal technology, primarily in controller hardware and software. These advances bring more flexibility in timing plans, advances in fault identification and notification, enhanced communication and traffic data collection.

NCDOT compiled an estimate to upgrade Currituck and Dare county signals with a project like the one currently under construction in Elizabeth City. (That) includes new signal heads, wiring, cabinets with controllers, fiber optic interconnect cable, etc. The initial estimate was around $10 million.

As an interim measure, we have requested Spot Mobility funds to upgrade just the controllers and modems in the cabinets. If funded the work will be completed by NCDOT Division 1 technicians. This work will bring the communications and controller software up to date, which will allow improved coordination along the U.S. 158/N.C. 168 corridor. The estimate for this project is around $500,000.

Hang on Jody, sounds like some relief is on its way.