The replacement of three traffic lights in Buckley, including this one at SR 410 and Park Avenue, has been delayed. The state says they should be installed in February. Photo by Kevin Hanson

The replacement of three traffic lights in Buckley, including this one at SR 410 and Park Avenue, has been delayed. The state says they should be installed in February. Photo by Kevin Hanson

New lights still coming to Buckley, but not until February

There’s only two companies in the U.S. that makes the parts the city is looking to use.

Drivers familiar with the afternoon crawl between Enumclaw and Buckley might recall a few months ago, when crews were busily preparing three Buckley intersections for new, modern traffic lights.

Those same drivers might now be wondering if that project has been delayed or scrapped altogether. Preliminary work was done, but there’s been no action since.

The good news, from the state Department of Transportation, is the improvement project is still on the books. The bad news is that further work won’t be seen until well after the first of the year.

At issue are three traffic lights along state Route 410, located at the intersections of Park Avenue, Main Street and Mundy Loss Road. The DOT planned and budgeted to replace all three in hopes of improving traffic flow.

While nothing will alter the fact that too many drivers are crowding a two-lane highway, the new lights are seen as a partial solution. Presently, the lights are on a constant rotation, alternating through the traditional red-yellow-green pattern no matter the traffic flow. That causes backups, particularly at Park Avenue, that stretch across the White River and into Enumclaw. Merging traffic from busy 244th only adds to the congestion.

The new traffic lights will be able to detect cross traffic or – more important – if there is no cross traffic. The new system will allow a light to remain green for 410 traffic unless another driver wants to cross the highway.

When originally announcing the project, the DOT said work would begin in late June and be completed by the end of October. Concrete was poured and underground work was completed, then everything came to a halt.

The DOT’s Cara Mitchell said last week the project is still in the works, but is in “suspension,” to use the DOT term.

The reason, simply, is a matter of supply and demand.

“There are only two manufacturers left in the United States who produce the steel poles required for this type of traffic signal,” Mitchell wrote in an email. “These manufacturers have been overwhelmed by demand and are experiencing difficulty getting raw materials.”

The results, she wrote, is that the SR 410 project is on hold until the steel poles are delivered, which is currently scheduled for the beginning of February. The DOT anticipates the project could be completed in mid-February.

The total cost of replacing the three traffic lights has been pegged at $2.7 million.

Presently, the traffic lights hang from a wire suspended between two wooden poles; the new system will use the design found at the city’s newest light at the 410/164 junction – a single arm extending over the highway.

Mitchell earlier had provided numbers showing why traffic is such an issue between Enumclaw and Buckley. A 2016 traffic count showed a daily average of 18,000 automobiles passing through the intersection of SR 410 and Mundy Loss Road; the average jumps to 20,000 autos daily at the Main Street and Park Avenue intersections.

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