The traffic light at Fire Station 5 knows if you are speeding — so don’t do it.
For about a year, city officials have been trying to figure out a way to slow down traffic on Wardlow Road between Studebaker Road and Claremore Avenue — the speed limit is 45 mph, but traffic has a tendency to exceed that, said City Traffic Engineer David Roseman.
First, traffic experts tried rumble strips and “bots dots” to try and slow traffic to appropriate speeds. The issue then transformed further when Newcomb Elementary School closed, forcing children to walk and bike to Keller Elementary, many taking Wardlow Road. That gave experts a reason to narrow the road and widen existing bicycle lanes.
Still, the problem persisted and it was decided that the city would install Operation Rest in Red. The light at Fire Station 5 generally is green — unless a fire engine needs to leave the building. With the new system, that light will stay red and will sense speeders coming from either of the four lanes that pass through — if a vehicle is going faster than the speed limit, the light will stay rested at red. If the vehicles are going the appropriate speed, they will trigger a green light.
The system uses motion-sensing camera equipment targeted at the specific 6,000-foot stretch of road.
“We thought, why don’t we go ahead and use that light instead of having it stuck on green all the time — instead cycle it appropriately,” Roseman said.
So far, early traffic surveillance has shown progress, officials said.
“These traffic changes improve safety in our community,” Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske said in a statement. “It’s important for all of us to observe speed limits, and using the traffic signal at Fire Station 5 to slow drivers down has been a good change for our neighborhoods.”
Roseman said there are somewhat similar situations used around the city, but those instances don’t take place all day long or via video technology. If this pilot light proves overly successful, it is possible the city could implement it elsewhere, he said.
“The hope is that we are calming those traffic speeds so people are going the speed limit and not exceeding it,” he said. “If everyone drove the limit, we wouldn’t have any problems.”
Operation Rest in Red does affect all four lanes going each direction, and the system is not perfect, Roseman said, but it has so far reached closest to the most desired result for speeds on Wardlow Road.
“The city of Long Beach looks at ways to improve all of our city streets,” Mayor Bob Foster said in a statement. “In this instance, traffic signal changes to improve safety for commuters, cyclists and pedestrians along Wardlow Road made the most sense.”