Queen Creek traffic engineer talks signals, roadways live on Facebook

Queen Creek Traffic Engineer Mohamed Youssef fielded questions from the public during a live Facebook chat conducted Oct. 20 by the town of Queen Creek. (Courtesy of town of Queen Creek)

Queen Creek Traffic Engineer Mohamed Youssef fielded questions from the public during a live Facebook chat conducted Oct. 20 by the town of Queen Creek. (Courtesy of town of Queen Creek)

Wait times at signals and railroad crossings are too long in Queen Creek.

That’s what many Queen Creek residents talked about during a live Facebook chat conducted Oct. 20 by the town with Queen Creek Traffic Engineer Mohamed Youssef.

“I thought somebody would ask about light rail or striping or signage but nobody asked those questions. That surprised me,” Mr. Youssef said during a phone interview.

The live chat on the town’s Facebook page was scheduled for 7-7:30 p.m. but lasted an hour due to more than 50 questions and comments, Mr. Youssef said.

The session ended with about 25 questions that Mr. Youssef is working on responding to, he said.
Constance Halonen-Wilson, the town’s public information officer, and Jen Snyder, the town’s digital specialist, assisted the traffic engineer during the live chat.

Mr. Youssef is not accustomed to a live chat format but he found it enjoyable.

“In my 26 years as a traffic engineer I have never done that. I like to talk face-to-face. But it was fun to think on my feet and to answer each question right,” he said. “The town is going that extra 10 miles to connect with our citizens in every single way it can.”

Since wait times at traffic signals and railroad crossings make up only 10 percent of what his job entails, Mr. Youssef said he was surprised and amazed at how many questions were asked about those issues.

“The town is growing. Everything is under construction as we start new subdivisions and businesses and the required traffic controls,” he said. “That results in traffic delays of some sort. But in the end, like the town’s campaign ‘Better Roads Ahead’ says, we’ll have smoother traffic.”

Two important capital improvement projects that Mr. Youssef feels should smooth out traffic are:

•A $6.7 million project on Rittenhouse Road from Sossaman Road to the Queen Creek Marketplace. The improvements include widening Rittenhouse Road from the existing two lanes to a five-lane major arterial roadway. Improvements will also include: street lights, bike lanes, sidewalk and landscaping. Mr. Youssef expects it to be completed by March.

•The $4.6 million  project on Ocotillo Road from Ellsworth Loop to Heritage Loop. The design for the project is about 90 percent complete. It consists of an alignment study, design and construction of the roadway. Construction will include a new intersection at Ocotillo and Ellsworth roads. The project will also include widening the road to four lanes with a center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks. A new traffic signal at the intersection of Ocotillo Road and Heritage Loop Road will also be included.

A complete list of the town’s capital improvement programs projects can be viewed on the town’s website.

The following are some of the questions and answers from the town’s live Facebook chat:

Tammy Landau: Any plans to put in a light in-between Cloud and Chandler Heights on Ellsworth at the entrance of Hastings Farms? I see a lot of accidents there.

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Tammy. In order for an intersection to be signalized, traffic volume entering the intersection must meet a national traffic signal warrant based on the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Katie Jackson: Are there any plans to alleviate the traffic jam in the mornings going north on Ellsworth between Queen Creek Road and Pecos Road? The back-up is starting to get out of hand.

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Katie. City of Mesa runs the signal at Germann and all the intersections north of Germann. We coordinate with the city of Mesa to improve the traffic flow but they control any improvements north of Germann. Please keep in mind about 50,000 cars travel on Ellsworth Road every day.

Jillian Klosowski: Are there any additional plans to deal with the increased traffic in the Queen Creek Market Place area now that all of these new businesses are opening? Such as on Ocotillo?
Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Jillian. There are improvements going in on Ocotillo from Ellsworth Loop to Heritage Loop. This is part of the Capital Improvement Projects that you can learn about at QueenCreek.org/BetterRoadsAhead. Also, we monitor and change the signal timing with the addition of new businesses.

Aliki Otey: Why is the light at Ellsworth and Chandler Heights so long? The southbound turn signal always activates when no one is there and it creates additional waiting time.

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Aliki. Traffic signals are timed to minimize stops and delay to all traffic using the intersection and “perfect synchronization” is rarely possible. Many factors contribute to the disruption of ideal progression: varying speeds, the presence of left-turning signals, the distance between signals, varying amounts of green time required by traffic on cross streets and congestion from very high traffic volumes. Perfect synchronization for one direction of traffic on a street may result in frequent stops and delays for the other direction. A compromise that favors the heavier direction of flow is usually best. We will take a look at this intersection. Thank you.

Jon Wootten: Thanks for taking your time to Q&A, Mohamed. What about bike lanes around town? Recent vs. old (Chandler Heights) vs. planned road widenings?

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Jon. We now add bike lanes with any new development in town and we retrofit the existing roadway to add bike lanes when possible.

Belinda Metzler: When are we getting a light at Gantzel and Chandler Heights?
Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Belinda. That location is not in Queen Creek’s town limits but is in Pinal County. You will have to contact Pinal County for an answer to this question. 520-866-6411.

Angela McElyea: Where can I find and view the town long-range transportation plan?

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Angela. Currently, we are working on the town’s first Master Transportation Plan. This will be a blueprint for the town’s transportation network for the next 20 years. It should be completed by the end of 2016. There will be opportunities for public input which we will share with you on our social media pages. For more information on traffic engineering visit: http://queencreek.org/departments/traffic-engineering.

Melissa Boillot: Hello. Is there a daily train schedule that citizens can access? Nothing worse than getting stuck at a light waiting for a train!

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Melissa. Here is the most updated information we have on the train schedule: www.queencreek.org/departments/public-works/train-schedules. Please note it may not always be exact and Union Pacific Railroad has complete control over their trains and the tracks. Currently, eight trains per day travel on the Union Pacific Railroad track that runs through Queen Creek. Six of them are coming from various parts of the country, so there is no way of knowing when they will pass through Queen Creek.

Alana Lewis Johnson: Can you please help with a light at Gantzel and Empire? Before someone dies there? It’s awful and very dangerous.

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Alana. Try contacting Pinal County’s Public Works Department at 520-866-6411. Thank you.

Jack Francis: Is there a reason that the left-turn light from Rittenhouse north onto Ellsworth Loop is so short? It seems to allow three cars to make the turn at a time, which seems short.

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Jack. Thank you for your question. There are nearly 50,000 cars that travel north-south on Ellsworth Road every day. The signals are timed to favor north-south traffic on Ellsworth Road. We will take a look at this intersection.

David Busch: All new traffic signals I have seen in the past decade or so have multiple cameras on them. What are these used for and who monitors them?

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, David. These cameras are used to detect traffic and communicate with the traffic controller (the big box on the ground at every intersection) and change the signal timing when coordination is not running. We do not record anything.

Shawna Bock Thackrah: Hi! It seems to me that the light on Ellsworth, just before you cross over the train tracks, in front of the old QC school district offices, is now taking an extremely long time to let north/south traffic move. It was never that way before.

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Shawna. We recently have completed a signal synchronization for all town signals. This resulted in an increase in cycle length to optimize the efficiency and safety of traffic. In addition, signals near the railroad may take longer due to railroad preemption.

Shawna Bock Thackrah: Okey doke. Thank you. The light was so long the other day that several cars finally turned around to go over to Ellsworth Loop. It didn’t make any sense. The cars going every other direction were able to go through at least two light cycles but those of us trying to go south kept having to sit there. That was a first and was super-frustrating. It just made me a bit nervous if this is going to keep happening. Thanks for all that you do for our great city.

Patty Jo Diamond: I was heading south there recently at the railroad tracks on old Ellsworth. It cycled five lights and was backed up past Barnes. I flipped a U-turn and went north out there. There is something wrong with that light. No train was coming. The lights are timed terrible. It has taken almost 10 minutes to get from Rittenhouse to Hunt as well.

Shawna Bock Thackrah: Patty Jo Diamond — Glad I wasn’t the only one who experienced this so I don’t seem crazy. Ha! Getting the kids to school late because of this light has been a real frustration lately. Those few extra minutes mean the difference between getting there on time and getting there late.

Erin Autuori: Is there anything we can do about the train coming to a complete stop on the tracks? This has happened multiple times that I have witnessed.

Town of Queen Creek (Official): Hi, Erin. Union Pacific Railroad has complete control over their trains and the tracks. Here is a link to the most updated information we have on train schedules. http://www.queencreek.org/departments/public-works/train-schedules

Susan Frazier Leonard: Thank you so much for the long left-turn arrow at Ellsworth and Chandler Heights! I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have that time to get so many cars through safely on our way to and from our schools!

Jillian Klosowski: I’m very much looking forward to the new light at Hawes and Rittenhouse as well as the road widening there.

KG Carlson: Don’t even live in this area yet, but I’m excited to hear and see this type of interaction the city is having with the community.

Editor’s note: To read additional questions, visit the town’s Facebook page.

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