Long red light makes North Richland Hills motorist see red

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- For six months, Dennis Clack was seeing red about an unnecessarily long traffic signal delay in North Richland Hills.

During that time, he called two government agencies and sent e-mails to a newspaper about the bad signal timing at Rufe Snow Drive and Northeast Loop 820 until -- finally -- his persistence paid off.

"It became obvious after two or three months that nobody was going to fix it, so I started making calls," the retired air traffic controller said.

Clack, a longtime North Richland Hills resident, noticed in late 2009 that there was an 11-second delay from the time the light turned red on Rufe Snow Drive until the light turned green on the Loop 820 frontage road. During that 11 seconds, traffic was at a standstill, with red lights shining in every direction.

Most traffic signals have no more than a one- or two-second delay.

Colossal waste of time

To some, 11 seconds might not seem like much. But Clack thought about the thousands of people who use that busy intersection.

The way he figured it, the delay added up to about 40 minutes per day -- which he considered a cumulative, colossal waste of time.

After putting up with the delay for two months, Clack decided to try to do something about it.

He called City Hall to complain and was directed to North Richland Hills' public works office. There, a call taker explained that because the signal was adjacent to a highway, it was controlled by the Texas Department of Transportation.

So Clack called the state Transportation Department's district office in southwest Fort Worth and talked to an employee -- regretfully, he didn't get a name. The employee seemed interested and promised to look into it.

But day after day, the 11-second delay remained.

"It seemed like the city was saying it's not our problem, then the state came back and said it's not our problem," Clack said. "They just stopped worrying about it."

Another week or two went by, and Clack saw a utility truck at the intersection. He briefly got his hopes up that the problem would be fixed.

No such luck.

Finally, a fix

Clack began writing e-mails to the Star-Telegram -- three of them over several weeks -- until a reporter followed through on a promise to check it out.

A call to Val Lopez at the Transportation Department eventually cleared up the matter.

Lopez, an agency spokesman, initially explained that although the state owned the traffic signal, an arrangement gave the city responsibility for timing. It was all part of North Richland Hills' effort to synchronize the lights on Rufe Snow Drive, a very busy north-south city street, he said.

But Lopez later called back with another explanation. A state crew had looked into the problem a little more closely, he said, and found a faulty card in the traffic signal's electronics that needed to be replaced.

The repair was quickly made.

"It is TxDOT's responsibility," Lopez said. "The city times the signals, but TxDOT made this repair."

Too bad it took six months for someone to take Clack's complaint seriously.

GORDON DICKSON, 817-390-7796