What a mess.

Last Friday I had to go to Whyte Avenue and 103rd Street after work. Because of the Fringe Festival, I decided against going across the High Level Bride and up 104th Street. I figured that by using Groat Road, I could avoid being stuck in a huge traffic jam. Wrong!

I wasn’t surprised cars were backed up on River Road. That’s normal because cars have to wait to merge into traffic going west on Groat Road. Once I passed that bottleneck it was pretty well smooth sailing along Saskatchewan Drive. That is until I hit University Avenue, when traffic came to a standstill.

As I sat there staring at the tail lights of cars in front of me, I wondered what on Earth was going on. I was sure there was an accident or some road work that was slowing things down. During rush hour I don’t expect to be moving along tickety boo, but the snail’s pace at which traffic was moving seemed out of the ordinary.

After inching along, I finally arrived at the traffic lights at 114th Street and found out why traffic wasn’t moving. The LRT line that is being extended to Century Park now crosses University Avenue at 114th Street. If you have ever been there, you know there are probably more traffic lights there than in any other place else in the city. In addition to the standard lights, there are lights that indicate no right turns on red. Other lights tell you when you can and can’t make a right turn and there are lights that tell you the LRT is coming.

As I sat there watching all those lights doing their thing, I realized what was happening. When the LRT comes, University Avenue is blocked by gate arms. By the time the LRT passes, the traffic lights have gone through a complete cycle. As I sat there, a northbound LRT passed and the arms went down and then up. Seconds later, a southbound LRT passed and arms went down and up again.

The result was that east and westbound cars sat there through three light changes. Little wonder traffic was backing up along University Avenue. What on Earth is going to happen at this location when the university’s students, staff and faculty return to school next week? Surely there’s some kind of electronic answer to this dilemma.