Signal timing technique could make Paseo del Norte bridge crossing safer

News

Most Albuquerque drivers probably haven’t heard of “LPI,” but the three-letter acronym represents what some advocates hope could make a busy city intersection safer for everyone. 

LPI stands for “leading pedestrian interval,” a traffic signal treatment that some locally are now pushing for a critical crossing at Paseo del Norte and I-25. 

The bridge was revamped several years ago with the Paseo flyover project. Engineers also added a new pedestrian and cyclist ramp on the west side of the interstate, to help people access the bridge. 

A neighbor to the area, Charlie Otto uses the bridge often. 

“If I want to go downtown or down to the river, this is the crossing I use,” said Otto, who’s also an avid cyclist. 

“It’s one of the critical links that needed to happen,” said Otto. 

While the bridge has wider sidewalks and a dedicated bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, there’s also an issue some have noticed near the traffic signals on the bridge. 

“(The crossing) works pretty well, except for that light,” said Otto. 

The “light” Otto is referring to is where drivers can access the I-25 southbound on-ramp and the Pan American Freeway frontage road. 

“Everybody starts moving at once and that’s a problem,” said Otto. 

When the walk symbol turns active for people on the pathway, the green light also activates for east-west drivers at the same time. Drivers who are heading westbound on Paseo del Norte to the I-25 south on-ramp have to turn across three lanes of eastbound Paseo traffic and the pedestrian crossing. 

Otto feels those turning drivers are often distracted by traffic and not looking for crossing pedestrians. 

He’s now supporting a push for NMDOT to implement LPI technology at the Paseo bike/ped trail crossing.

A “leading pedestrian interval” would give people three to seven seconds to begin crossing before any driver’s light turns green. 

“It gives pedestrians and cyclists that small head start to cross the intersection,” said Otto. 

A transit engineering group, the National Association of City Transportation Officials found that LPI signals have “been shown to reduce pedestrian vehicle collisions as much as 60 percent at treated intersections.” 

Most LPI treatments can be done simply by changing traffic signal timing. 

“I think that’s pretty easy to do,” said Scot Key, an Albuquerque cyclist. 

Key is also a board member on the city’s Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee (GABAC). 

The LPI idea was recently discussed at a GABAC meeting. An employee with NMDOT mentioned the idea of looking at using the technique at the Paseo trail crossing. 

“The signals are already in place, it’s about (changing signal) timing,” said Key. 

Key is also advocating for the City of Albuquerque’s traffic engineers to take note of LPI technology. He says he’d like for the city to use it at intersections like MLK Jr. Boulevard and I-25 (Oak Street), a large intersection where pedestrians and cyclists can find themselves crossing in front of three lanes of turning cars. 

“Everyone in town is a walker at some point, even the people who drive everywhere, they still walk places,” said Key. 

NMDOT told KRQE News 13 Friday that it’s working toward starting a study of LPI signal changes at the Paseo crossing, but the agency hasn’t yet committed to using the technique in the field. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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