A new experiment in the Hudson Valley is having some unintended consequences. What was supposed to make commuting easier in Ulster and Orange county may be having the reverse effect.

I live in Newburgh and work in Poughkeepsie, NY, which means that when I want to take the scenic way to work, I hop on 44/55. The beautiful drive takes me by rolling fields, the horse parade at Rocking Horse Ranch, and now... a mile-long line at a new traffic light.

Jonah/TSM/Canva
Jonah/TSM/Canva
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Massive Lines at New Ulster County, NY Traffic Light

Not far from the Mid-Hudson Bridge, the intersection of 44/55 and Chapel Hill Road hosts hundreds of daily commuters. Construction in the town of Lloyd has recently diverted even more traffic, overloading the intersection that normally only has one stop sign and backing up traffic to comical lengths during rush hour. The new light was supposed to alleviate some of the issues, but it may have only compounded it.

The view from the back of the line on Chapen Hill Rd (Jonah/TSM)
The view from the back of the line on Chapen Hill Rd (Jonah/TSM)
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Rush Hour on Chapel Hill Road in Highland, NY

By now I'm used to the line of cars on Chapel Hill Road leading to 44/55, but Thursday night (the second day of the new traffic light's operation) was a different beast. The line of cars stretched back for a literal mile during the 5PM rush hour, and it took just over ten minutes of brake tapping and inching forward to reach the intersection.

The line at the new traffic light was a mile long on Thursday (Jonah/TSM)
The line at the new traffic light was a mile long on Thursday (Jonah/TSM)
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Traffic Light: Help or Hinderance?

The traffic light experiment is still in its infancy, so it would be premature to jump to any conclusions about the efficiency of switching from a stop sign to a traffic signal, but the early days aren't encouraging. As a commuter, I was excited to welcome the light, thinking it would help, rather than hinder, the flow of traffic. One of the issues may lie in how the light operates.

The light has three separate green light cycles (Jonah/TSM/Canva)
The light has three separate green light cycles (Jonah/TSM/Canva)
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Even though the intersection only deals with two roads, the light operates to allow for three different traffic patterns: drivers entering 44/55 from Chapel Hill Road, vehicles travelling south on 44/55, and those traveling north (above). That means the light has three cycles, instead of two, which adds to waiting time for all drivers.

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I'll keep my normal route... for now. It's always difficult to work out the kinks of something new and I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt to the Department of Transportation and the Town of Lloyd before I make any decisions about the best way to drive home.

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