Reader Letters | Aug. 14, 2008
ACTUALLY IT'S A BIG ELECTROMAGNET
I noticed your article titled "Growing Out Of Our Cars" as I was chomping away on a sub at Jimmy Johns last week. (If you have not tried the #5 with hot peppers, you are missing out.) I am the traffic engineer for the City of Eau Claire; one of my duties is to oversee the traffic signals.
Most of the traffic signals in town do indeed "detect" vehicles and place a "call" into the traffic controller that operates the intersection. In almost all the cases, the traffic signal will stay green on the main street and only go green on the side street if a car comes up and is detected. I could spend a whole day giving you info on how traffic signals operate but that is it in a nutshell.
We do have some signals that still do operate "pre-timed." There are five intersections to be exact: Farwell/Lake, Barstow/Lake, Graham/Lake, Farwell/Madison and Barstow/Madison. They operate the same all day and switch the green from one direction to the next without any detection, so if you are on your scooter waiting at the minor approach, the green will come up. The days of this type of operation are limited; I am trying to update all the signals in the City to operate on a "call" basis to minimize delay on off-peak times.
Okay, now back to detection ... there are actually loops (copper wire installed in conduit) underneath the pavement that we induce an electric charge through to create a magnetic field. When a large metal object (a car) enters the field, the amplifier "detects" the change in the field and tells the traffic controller there is a "call." However, the smaller the object (moped, bike, motorcycle), the less chance that the object will be noticed. On new construction projects, the City is installing push buttons for bikes on the minor approaches to get around this issue. In the near future, the City will begin experimenting with the use of video cameras at two test locations to detect vehicles. Video detection offers a lot more flexibility when creating detection zones and has the ability to more reliably "detect" smaller vehicles such as motorcycles, mopeds, and bikes.
Just wanted to let you know that "some city worker" was reading your article and is already doing something about it. :)
- Ross Spitz, Transportation Engineer, City of Eau Claire
WHERE'S THE BEST FISH FRY?
I am a college student who has been living in Eau Claire full-time for over a year now, and I am in search of my ultimate comfort food. I would like to know who has the best fish-fry in town.
By now I know where all of the chain restaurants are located, and all the trendy local bistros, but I am looking for down-home, Mom-and-Pop, all-you-can-clog-your-arteries-with batter-fried cod. Homemade french fries and cole slaw would be a plus.
- Lauren B.
How about it, readers? Write us and let Lauren know where the Chippewa Valley's tastiest fish fry is: firstname.lastname@example.org.