Answer Man: Will traffic pole painters paint the town black?

August 12, 2018

So we meet again, Answer Man!

I’m curious why the city decided to make the new traffic light poles, on Civic Center and Fourth, black. Is it to better see them when the snow starts dropping?

Have a super week! — JF

As always, I’m more than happy to enlighten any and all who seek out my assistance.

For starters, you should know it isn’t just one set of traffic lights that has been outfitted with shiny black poles. In addition to the one at the intersection of Civic Center Drive Northwest and Fourth Avenue Northwest which you noted, there are two others along Civic Center Drive that also have the new poles. I’ll leave you to hunt those down yourself.

However, according to Sam Budzyna, traffic engineer with the Rochester Public Works Department, the color change isn’t a matter of visibility at all — it’s a money thing.

Many years ago, the traffic lights in Rochester were all generic yellow or green. However, at some point the decision was made to switch to brown in the downtown area for aesthetic reasons, and more recently to use a charcoal gray, which can be seen on many of the traffic poles downtown today.

In order to get the specific shade of brown or gray being used, the city had to order custom poles, which, as with anything custom made, is more expensive than ordering a pole in a standard color. In an email, Budzyna says Steven Cook, senior electrical engineer with Rochester Public Utilities approached him earlier in the year about “picking a fiscally responsible standard color and achieving uniformity throughout the city.”

As it turns out, there’s only one shade of black when it comes to traffic poles (although a stroll down the paint aisle in Home Depot might make you think otherwise), so a joint decision was made to switch to black. The lights on Civic Center Drive are the first of the generic black poles to have been installed since the decision was made.

But wait, there’s more!

You can expect to see more black poles coming soon to an intersection near you because Rochester’s annual traffic signal pole painting project is scheduled to paint nine more intersections yet this year.

Those intersections will be at Eighth and Ninth Streets Southeast along Third Avenue Southeast, 16th Street Southwest and U.S. Highway 52, Second Street Southwest across from Fire Station 3, 19th Street Northwest and Valleyhigh Drive Northwest, 14th Street Northwest and 11th Avenue Northwest, First and Second Streets Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest and Second Street Northwest and First Avenue Northwest.

Don’t say I never did anything for you.

The paint shouldn’t spread too far beyond the downtown area, however. Megan Moeller, communication coordinator with Rochester Public Works, says traffic poles outside of downtown will be made of galvanized material. These will only go to black if they’re old and need repainting or weren’t galvanized.

“There’s no push to go paint the signals, but as they need to be painted, they will go to black,” Moeller said.

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