No commuter ever enjoys stopping for red lights, but sitting through several light cycles or being stopped for no apparent reason can really get the blood boiling. Two readers asked about locations that bring lots of mail: Santa Rosa Avenue at Hearn Avenue, and Fountaingrove Parkway.

Santa Rosa Traffic Engineer Rob Sprinkle provides the explanations.

Question: What’s up with the lights at the Santa Rosa Avenue and Hearn overpass around 4 to 5 in the afternoon? I’ve seen it where the traffic coming down Hearn is backed up to the light at Dutton Meadow as well as the side streets and off ramp from 101.

The light just won’t change, and I have been there where we run the red for left turn onto Santa Rosa Ave. to go right and down the road to 101 on ramp or turn left at McDonalds. A cop told me it had to do with the sun going down and the light just not changing. If so, how come no cops to get it moving? — Forrest McCrossen

Answer: If a light doesn’t change, it doesn’t mean it’s malfunctioning.  It could be that the signal is coordinated with the adjacent signals or that a pedestrian hit the ped button, then decided to take another route (peds take a long time to cross).  It could be a host of things.  The sun would tend to put a call into the controller, not skip a direction.

We will check and verify that Hearn is working between 4-5 p.m.  This is a very heavy peak time that may be more related to the capacity of the intersection versus the detection.  But, we will definitely look into it.

Question: Is the City of Santa Rosa planning on fixing the traffic signals along the Fountaingrove Parkway that change to red for no reason? It’s quite frustrating to be going uphill and have to stop and lose momentum to wait for the light to turn green again.

One is at the entrance to the Agilent area.  That light constantly is red to traffic on Fountaingove and green for the street meeting Fountaingrove with no traffic exiting.  Then one side gets a green (with no traffic turning left), and the other side stays red for a bit longer.

The other signal is further up beyond this one, where it splits down to two lanes in each direction.  The first signal you meet almost is always red for no reason, and that’s why I mentioned momentum because that’s a steep incline, and starting from a dead start is rough. — Brian Webb

Answer: One of the key items for us is the time of day this is being experienced.  That helps us focus our time more effectively when trying to review the problem.  From the description, I think I know the two signals he is referring to. I will ask the tech to see if there is anything malfunctioning.  Sounds like the detector is sticking on the side street.

Still want more?

Read THIS STORY from the Road Warrior vault, an interview with Sprinkle about how Santa Rosa’s traffic lights work.


Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter at @PDRoadWarrior.

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  1. Jeff

    Why don’t left turn arrows turn green for motorcycles alone in the left turn lane. Actually, I know why, just wondering how many cycles I have to wait before pretending it changed to green, and if a long overdue fix will ever come.

    May 23rd, 2013 8:35 am


    If a light doesn’t change, it’s malfunctioning!!! I ride a Motorcycle at many of these lights forcing me to run through , They SIMPLY WILL NOT TURN GREEN FOR BIKES ,will they EVER fix that problem???

    May 23rd, 2013 12:02 pm


    Rohnert Park has a big problem when it comes to Lights and Motorcycles too! just over half of them never detect Motorcycles waiting “Please fix”… especially the one coming out of Costco to make a left turn from Marton to redwood drive!….

    May 23rd, 2013 12:33 pm

  4. dominic

    the one in Fountain grove does this all the time. all day every day. this has been a problem for years. it will be green from the time you can see it on the road and right before you get there it will turn red just enough for you to stop and then green again

    May 23rd, 2013 4:49 pm

  5. Rex Faktor

    It is not illegal to proceed safely through a traffic signal that is malfunctioning. A large percentage of Santa Rosa’s signals have faulty “detectors”…I ran the Montgomery/Summerfield light at 530am this morning after waiting a reasonable amount of time with not a soul in sight…and I’ll do it again as needed as I do not expect any repair to ever happen.
    Just be prepared to explain yourself if pulled over…”I’m in a hurry” won’t cut it…

    May 23rd, 2013 5:21 pm

  6. Jeff

    I was stranded once at a perpetually red left arrow. Very early morning, no traffic. To my immediate left was a fire station with a CHP parked facing toward the intersection. And the arrow stayed red, of course. What to do, I thought to myself, briefly, when the CHP pulled into the lane behind me, then backed into the fire station driveway. He/she did that just to trip the light for me!

    So I guess what we need is an alert CHP at every intersection. Too much to ask?

    May 23rd, 2013 10:03 pm


    I will Go Pro vid all the offending lights and post them on U tube & live leaks

    May 24th, 2013 7:22 am

  8. Brian

    Please let the city of Santa Rosa know that I’ve been experiencing this on the Fountaingove parkway in the afternoon/evening hours. The above comment made by Dominic also is quite often the case – the light changing for no reason, causing you to stop to only go again after a period of no traffic coming the other way.

    May 25th, 2013 5:08 pm

  9. Jessica

    What about the light at the intersection of Fulton Road and Piner Road? I have wasted many many minutes of my life that I will never get back waiting for that light to change (especially turning left onto Piner from Fulton).
    The longest I waited was 8 minutes. Now I just go straight and make a U turn into a neighborhood then turn right onto Piner.

    May 30th, 2013 10:49 pm

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