Blue light special

A blue light was recently installed on the southwest corner of County Road D and Old Highway 8. As shown, the blue light is illuminated, meaning the red lights for traffic crossing from the other direction are engaged.
A blue light was recently installed on the southwest corner of County Road D and Old Highway 8. As shown, the blue light is illuminated, meaning the red lights for traffic crossing from the other direction are engaged. (Mike Munzenrider/Bulletin)

Ramsey County installs new signals to help with red light enforcement

Small blue lights are showing up on the sides of traffic signals throughout Ramsey County offering police a safer way to enforce red lights and in turn, reduce accidents.

In total, 128 blue lights will be installed at 49 intersections, according to a Ramsey County release.

The new lights offer police a way to tell when a traffic signal has turned red without directly observing the red light. The blue light, which faces in a perpendicular direction from the red light, turns on at the same time traffic should be stopping.

"It provides [police] a safer way to pursue violators, folks who run through red lights," Ramsey County Traffic Engineer Erin Laberee said. "So they don't have to run the red light themselves."

Beyond safety, the blue lights allow police to monitor an intersection with one squad car, as opposed to two, as can be necessary without the lights.

"We worked with law enforcement to get this project started, because we wanted them to support us," Laberee said.

Lt. Lorne Rosand with the Roseville Police Department said the department welcomes the lights.

"We see [the lights] as another tool to assist in traffic enforcement, making intersections even safer for those traveling through the community," Rosand said. "And it does make it safer to enforce."

Rosand said police will make sure that blue and red lights are properly synchronized before setting up shop "downstream" from intersections and potentially issuing citations.

Rosand said the police department checked with the courts to make sure judges would enforce blue-light-based citations, and the courts answered affirmatively.

"We were dotting our i's and crossing our t's," Rosand said, adding the department didn't want to waste time and taxpayer money issuing citations that would be thrown out in court.

The lights, which are permanent, were paid for with a federal traffic safety grant, Laberee said. The total project cost is $133,000.

Money from the grant will also be used to purchase and install pedestrian countdown timers at certain intersections, which will alert walkers to how much time they have to get across the street.

Laberee said installation of the blue lights is ongoing, and will continue into the next couple of weeks.

She said the county had previously installed the lights on traffic signals on White Bear Avenue near Maplewood Mall a couple of years ago, and others at the intersection of Rice Street and Roselawn.

Burnsville installed blue lights at intersections in 2008, the first city in the state to do so.

Laberee said it was still too early to tell if the lights have an effect on traffic safety, though she said the county would track the information as it becomes available.

Blue lights are being installed on:

• County Road D from Old Highway 8 in New Brighton through Roseville to Interstate 35E in Little Canada.

• Larpenteur Avenue from Trunk Highway 280 in Lauderdale through Falcon Heights to Hamline Avenue.

• Silver Lake Road from County Road D/37th Avenue in St. Anthony through New Brighton to Rice Creek Road.

• Lexington Avenue from Larpenteur Avenue in Roseville along the border of Arden Hills and Shoreview to County Road E.

• Highway 96 from Hamline Avenue in Arden Hills through Shoreview and Vadnais Heights out to Highway 61

• The intersection of Cleveland and Roselawn avenues.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

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