Cold snap zaps Philly traffic lights

 A traffic light is broken at 8th and Callowhill Streets in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A traffic light is broken at 8th and Callowhill Streets in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia residents aren’t the only ones unhappy with the recent weather. The chill has some traffic lights around the city on the fritz. Some traffic lights are completely out while others are flashing.

Philadelphia’s recent cold snap is to blame, said Richard Montanez, chief traffic and street-lighting engineer for the city Streets Department.

“Cold weather’s particularly harsh with mechanical equipment, such as our older electromechanical traffic signals,” he said.

Montanez , who said department crews are trying to repair the stuck signals, said that on a normal winter day, there are four or five complaints about malfunctioning signals.

“During the recent cold snap, the number of traffic signals being stuck has increased dramatically, into the 30s or more,” he said. “The cause is usually from condensation which forms and freezes within the traffic signal control boxes. The icing causes the signals to malfunction.”

While the city is working on a long-term solution — getting more modern lights — Montanez said that’s a pricey proposition.

“To upgrade an intersection right now … is somewhere between $125,000 to $175,000 per intersection, he said. “That would be … all approaches, brand-new signal heads, brand-new mast arms, brand-new underground, brand-new cable and a brand- new controller.”

Montanez urged drivers to travel carefully when confronting a malfunctioning traffic light and to report it to 311.

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