Lights off, lights on

It’s not uncommon for drivers in Fort Dodge to encounter traffic lights that aren’t working properly.

Many will recognize the flashing red stop lights as a sign that city crews will need to make repairs so traffic begins to run normally.

In Fort Dodge, that job falls to city electrician Steve Mattke.

Mattke said the frequency with how often traffic lights can go out varies.

“I might have two or three going on at once, or I might have none,” he said. “I never know how many will go out at once.”

Mattke said most traffic light failures are reported to the Fort Dodge Police Department.

“They’ll monitor the lights, and if there’s something wrong they’ll notify the comm center,” he said.

From there, he’s contacted about the lights and responds to fix them.

He said a wide variety of problems can cause the lights to stop working, and the time it takes to fix them can vary.

“I’ve seen it take anywhere from 30 minutes to three days to figure out what’s going on,” he said.

Mattke said he’s the one responsible for fixing all traffic light malfunctions in the city.

“Typically, I end up going out and looking in the cabinet to see what’s going on,” he said. “There’s equipment in there that will help me determine why something’s going wrong.”

He said common malfunctions include the lights not cycling properly or two sides seeing the same color of light.

“I’ll end up reading the conflict monitor to be able to know why something like that is happening,” he said.

Mattke said there’s really no way to prevent the traffic light malfunctions from happening.

“There’s not much you can do to prevent a switch failure, unless they were replaced every five years,” he said.

But he added that wouldn’t make much sense financially.

“The cost of that would eat up budgets in a hurry,” he said. “The practicality wouldn’t be there.”