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Which red light is the longest in Charlotte?

Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It might be one of the sweetest feelings.

Pulling up to the intersection at the perfect time for that light to turn green.

But miss it by just a second, and you’re stuck - a prisoner to whoever came up with this crazy system of colored lights.

In Charlotte, that person is Nathan Conard, Transportation Systems Manager with CDOT.

“We handle a lot of the signal timing in the city with our traffic signals. We have little over 850 traffic signals that we look after,” Conard said.

With 850 traffic signals to choose from WBTV had an important question, which one is the longest? But the answer isn’t so simple.

“It’s called a cycle length,” Conard said.

In traffic engineering, a cycle is the time it takes to go from green to red to green again.

Typically, where you see the longest cycles is where you’ll find the longest red lights. The length of those cycles is determined by the amount of traffic, how many lanes and more.

“Whether an intersection has turn signals or not, or whether it has pedestrian signals,” Conard said.

Add up all those factors and Conard and his team has decided that the longest cycle in Charlotte is 150 seconds or two minutes and thirty seconds.

Across Charlotte, there are 21 corridors that have cycles of 150 seconds Monroe, Albermarle, Billy Graham, Steele Creek, some of your busiest and most congested roads.

Where you’ll find the longest red is waiting to turn left onto or across one of these roads from a street with little traffic. If you’re on Margaret Wallace waiting to turn left onto Independence during rush hour you could wait as long as two minutes and fifteen seconds.

Drivers might want that left-hand green to last a little longer but Conard says extending cycle times isn’t always a good idea. Traffic engineering is also about human engineering.

“We don’t want to get those cycle lanes too high because nobody wants to wait at an intersection more than they feel they need to,” Conard said.

So next time you’re stuck at the red just realize there’s a plan to release you soon before your face turns red too.

If you would like to request a change in the traffic signal timing you can call 311 or visit the City of Charlotte website.

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