Earlier this month I wondered out loud why the traffic lights along First Avenue in Cedar Rapids were no longer flashing yellow during the overnight hours. I know that the issue doesn't affect a lot of people, but it was one small thing I have always enjoyed about my early morning commute. Well, the traffic engineering department heard my questions and were more than happy to provide some answers.

John Witt is the Traffic Engineering Program Manager. He informed me that the flashing overnight traffic signals are being phased out all over the city of Cedar Rapids. Signals no longer flash yellow on Mt. Vernon Road or along Collins Road. Witt said that the flashing yellow program dates back to the 1970's. During the energy crisis, having the lights flash overnight helped save money. But today's traffic signals run on energy-efficient LED lights so the cost-saving measure simply isn't needed.

Another reason the program is being stopped is technology. Better technology. The sensors that are used in today's signals and also in the pavement work better at keeping traffic moving. Witt admitted that some sensors along first avenue still need adjusting but when working properly you should never sit at a red light with no one coming on the cross street.

Finally, Witt said ending the flashing yellow program is an issue of safety. Some motorists didn't realize that a flashing red for them meant a yellow for cross traffic. So by stopping the overnight flashing lights, they hope to avoid any unnecessary collisions.

Yes, I'll miss my flashing yellows in the morning. They represented a simpler time. A better time? We'll have to wait and see.

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