O.C. Answer Man: When and where did Orange County get its first traffic signal?

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Illustration by Blair Thornley

Vague references exist to a 1923 Anaheim traffic signal, but the earliest confirmed instance I’ve found is a simple flashing light atop a signpost at the center of the intersection at First and Main streets in Santa Ana in 1924. This lighthouse flash signal proved a road hazard and lasted only a few days. The next attempt, in 1927, occurred a few blocks away when automatic traffic signals were installed at the intersections where Fourth Street crosses Main Street and Broadway (the county’s commercial hub). Instead of lights, these signals had arms marked “Stop” and “Go,” which swung into view on alternating cycles, accompanied by a bell. By 1939, when Fourth and Main got the town’s first modern red-yellow-green lights, people were thoroughly sick of the bells.

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