For better traffic flow, cash-strapped communities find timing is everything
Tom Kelley says Mt. Lebanon doesn't have the room, or money, to build its way out of its traffic congestion problem.
“We can't rip out sections and sections of property for new lanes of road. We have to work smarter and make the best out of what we have,” said Kelley, Mt. Lebanon's public works director.
Mt. Lebanon is hardly alone. As state and federal transportation funding has decreased in recent years, municipalities have looked for less expensive ways to reduce congestion on its busiest roads.
Increasingly, communities are adjusting the timing of traffic signals, based on traffic volumes.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, a 10-county planning agency, recently completed the first phase of a long-term project that ultimately will adjust the timing of about a quarter of the region's 2,750 traffic signals.
The first phase began in 2008 and cost $3.75 million. It adjusted the timing of 251 traffic signals that are used by more than 440,000 vehicles a day across 40 municipalities.
By improving the flow of traffic, the SPC estimates the projects will reduce traffic delays by 21 percent, decrease fuel consumption by 16 percent and cut back on emissions by 9 percent.
SPC project manager Domenic D'Andrea said studies are under way for the second phase, expected to cost $5 million and improve about 250 intersections by early 2015, he said. Similar work is planned in the third and final phase.
The completed projects adjusted signal timing based on estimated traffic volumes at different times of the day, and synchronized the signals with others in the area.
Other projects are going a step further, using sensors and cameras to gauge current traffic conditions to adjust the timing of signals in real time.
A Carnegie Mellon University-led pilot project that targeted nine intersections in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood showed the so-called adaptive signals cut travel times through the area by 26 percent.
PennDOT used similar technology at eight intersections in a $21 million project to improve a 2.3-mile stretch of Route 19 in McCandless and Pine known as the Wexford Flats.
D'Andrea said no SPC projects, to date, have used the adaptive technology. “They are much more expensive at this point,” he said.
Duane McKee, assistant manager of Cranberry, said the SPC project has helped ease congestion in two areas of the rapidly growing Butler County township and the neighboring municipalities of Marshall, Adams and Seven Fields.
SPC said it adjusted 11 signals along Route 19 and 19 signals on Freedom Road and Route 228.
Aside from regular congestion because of Cranberry's large amount of retail development, McKee said traffic jumped after Westinghouse Electric Co. relocated its corporate headquarters to the township.
McKee said about Route 228, near I-79, carries about 5,000 more vehicles during the morning rush attributed to Westinghouse's move.
“We're in constant flux, but we're stuck in what we can afford to do. We have to make our signals work better, and this is the perfect way to do that,” McKee said.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Think before you ink: Tattoo removal a $27M annual business
- Avonworth Primary Center’s colorful concept aims to inspire creativity
- No takers for old McCandless movie theater
- Deaths of cats prompt review in Mt. Lebanon
- Young Achiever: Robert Veltre III
- Western Pa. municipalities’ rules for cell towers in flux