Report: Seattle traffic signal system 'trending towards failure'

SEATTLE - A new audit report found that when it comes to city signals, failing equipment is making for congestion, delays, and even a dangerous drive.

The City Council was briefed on a report that finds 70% of the city's traffic signals are in poor condition, and the signal system as a whole is "trending towards failure."

The report targets traffic light synchronization as one of the biggest deficiencies within the Seattle Department of Transportation. It found while signals are supposed to be re-timed once every three years, in Seattle that happens only once every seven years.

SDOT's traffic signals are controlled by a system built in 1985, and are operated out of the Municipal Tower.

"The age of the system does not allow you to have the timing of the signal be affected by the actual traffic out on the street," director Peter Hahn says.

One of the worst intersections? Signals at Fauntleroy Way SW and 35th Ave SW that have failed several times because of frayed wires.

The study finds that the "fix it when it breaks" approach isn't cutting it, but overhauling the system is no easy task. SDOT's sign operations are short $5.7 million in funding to complete those repairs, the report says.

It's not all bad news for SDOT. While signals were not highly rated, many other aspects were considered best practices and innovative.

SDOT says it can't just change the timing of one light to fix traffic flow. For now, they're looking into adding electronic message boards to tell drivers which routes to take or avoid.