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Flashing traffic signal on 360 caused major headaches for commuters Thursday

A flashing red traffic light on Loop 360 caused major headaches for commuters Thursday morning, and it was caused by a minor crash. (Photo: CBS Austin)

A flashing red traffic light on Loop 360 caused major headaches for commuters Thursday morning, and it was caused by a minor crash.

At almost every traffic light, there’s typically a rectangular, metal box sitting long side up on the ground at one corner. That box holds all the electrical equipment for the traffic light.

On Thursday, a car crashed into this “signal cabinet” causing the light at Great Hills Trail and Loop 360 to flash red in all direction. That turned the intersection into a four-way stop which caused major backups during morning rush hour.

“I was very late,” Bonnie Carpenter said. “I was about 45 minutes late.”

Carpenter works at Platinum Title off Great Hills Trail and 360. She couldn’t believe the timing. “I thought what’s going on and why is it happening at the most inconvenient time of the day when everyone’s trying to get to work,” Carpenter said.

She thought it could have been the city just working on the signal. However, the crash had jostled loose components in the signal box. After a couple hours, the city was able to send a crew out there, tighten up some electrical equipment inside and get it running again.

The city has seen several causes for lights going out. These can be a crash, weather, normal wear and tear and even rodents nibbling on wires. The fixes vary as much as the causes. Sometimes they might have to replace the entire control unit in the box.

The city said they get about 1,000 traffic light related concerns on 311 a month. That’s why they’re set to release a new video explaining how they fix traffic lights. Especially on 360, time is of the essence to fix them because one light flashing on the highway can cause major delays for commuters. “It causes backups that are almost dangerous,” Carpenter said.

When lights are flashing the city said that means the intersection is a four-way stop. Even that can be stressful, especially for Carpenter’s coworker Carissa Dickey who was recently in a major crash in Bertram.

She’s still recovering physically and mentally from that crash so the four-way stop situation was stressful for her. “I had to figure out if it was my turn to go or if someone else’s turn that made me really anxious, it made me really nervous,” Dickey said. “Not everyone will follow those rules, they’ll just think oh I’m here now it’s my turn to go.”

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