Traffic

Mission Statement

The Traffic and Communications section will make every effort to maintain a safe environment, through the use of traffic signals, street lighting, pavement marking and signing, for the traveling public who use the streets and sidewalks in the City of Bellingham. We will place high emphasis on quality and especially teamwork with other departments/divisions with whom we interact.

 The three major tasks that Traffic and Communications handle are:

Traffic and Communications also does work on the radios for city departments including Parks, Police and Fire as well as Western Washington University, WTA and various fire districts.

Traffic and Communications does not decide where to place new signs. They only maintain existing signs, signals, and street lights. Anybody interested in new signs, signals or street lights should contact the Operations Division of Public Works.

Reports of problems (burnt out bulbs, malfunctions, etc.) should be reported to Public Works.

Traffic signals

Work on traffic signals falls into three general categories:

  • Preventative maintenance is performed on each traffic signal controller each month. Every controller is given a cursory check for proper operation and the intersection is walked around checking pedestrian push buttons and visually checking the intersection for needed repairs. Cleaning up graffiti on cabinets is starting to become a major problem.
  • Lamps are changed once each year. While replacing the bulbs, the lenses and refractors are cleaned, and the alignment of the lights is checked, along with the condition of the pole.
  • Trouble calls for accident damage or malfunction are answered as they come in during working hours. After hours, calls are handled according to a priority system set up by Maintenance and Engineering personnel. Some are responded to immediately and some are left on flash until the following morning. Troubles range from lights being out and detectors malfunctioning in the streets to electronic failures in the cabinet.

Traffic signs and pavement markings

Work on the signs and pavement markings generally is one of two activities:

  • Sign maintenance consists of replacing signs, posts, or anchors. Washing sign faces, straightening posts, visibility checks, reflectivity testing, new sign installation, etc. are considered sign maintenance. Signs marked with graffiti must be replaced, since the paint cannot be removed without also removing the reflective coating on the sign.
  • Pedestrian cross-walks, stop bars, symbols, no parking signs and parking stalls are either marked using plastic material or paint. These items are again installed using city forces and contract work during the summer months. Generally cross walks, symbols and stop bars are placed using plastic marking tape. If the road surface is unusually rough, paint is used. Curb surfaces where there are no parking zones, loading zones, and handicapped zones are painted, as are fog lines, bicycle lanes, and some center lanes. Stripes are also painted in the Central Business District and Fairhaven area which mark parking stalls. Painting can only be done in the summertime, since the pavement must be warm and can not have any moisture trapped in it. All paint jobs are placed on a list and done when weather permits. Button installation is also accomplished during the summer time. This consists of installing buttons on new street surfaces or replacing buttons that are missing or damaged.

City-operated street lights

  • The City is currently upgrading all City streetlights into smart LED fixtures.
  • LED streetlights significantly reduce the City's carbon footprint by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Energy efficient LED streetlights are expected to save the City over $200,000 annually.
  • LED lights produce better color rendering and uniform illumination patterns as opposed to old, high-pressure sodium fixtures.
  • The City's new LED lights are guaranteed to last 10 years, and are expected to last at least 20 years.
  • The smart LED lights contain a node that alerts the central network about a failure.
  • The LED lights can be adjusted based on customer request, and to save additional energy during low-occupancy times.
  • LED streetlights have been shown to increase public safety. This national lighting standard is consistent with Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) standards.
  • The City owns approximately 3,600 streetlights around town. The City pays for an additional 1,700 streetlights owned and operated by Puget Sound Energy, which are not being converted at this time.