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New traffic-detection system planned for Route 22 Murrysville segment

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star Murrysville is going to replace the traffic light system at Route 22 and School Road.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star Murrysville is going to replace the traffic light system at Route 22 and School Road.

Route 22 drivers will get a sneak peak of the future when driving through Murrysville later this year. But the future won't peek at the drivers.

Officials will install radar detection at the intersection at Route 22 and School Road as a new means of traffic detection.

“It does not take pictures of you. It does not look at you,” chief administrator Jim Morrison said. “It does not do anything but send out a signal to pick up a vehicle in a designated zone.”

Currently, traffic is controlled using video-camera detection. Several cameras are set up at each intersection and are triggered by traffic passing through. The signals are programmed on a timer — if the camera doesn't detect traffic in a specific lane for a prolonged time, the light will change, adding the remaining time of the cycle to the main throughway.

The radar detectors in the new system will send out a signal to detect cars in the defined zone.

“Radar isn't affected by the wind moving the cameras, brine splashing up on lenses or sunlight,” Morrison said. “Radar constantly sends out a signal. It's a newer technology; it's been out a little while.”

That appeals to Murrysville Council Vice President Rege Synan. Unlike the current setup, the radar cameras won't be affected by fog, rain or snow, he said.

Valerie Petersen, spokeswoman for PennDOT District 12, said the state uses radar detection in Washington County along Racetrack Road and along Route 119 in Fayette County.

“They seem to work well,” Petersen said. “It is just a different way to queue traffic.”

The Route 22-School Road intersection will require as many as five radar detectors, which cost between $3,000 and $5,000 each. Council limited the cost of the detectors to $15,000.

The municipality has fielded complaints about the lights along Route 22 for years, Morrison said.

“There's probably not a week that goes by that we don't get a call concerning the lights on 22,” Morrison said. “It's been the bane of my existence here, this Route 22 project.”

In 2013, officials began work on improving traffic control along the 10-mile stretch of state highway. Last spring, a traffic-control study showed four peak times for traffic, compared with the three windows of time that the lights are programmed to handle. That discrepancy has led to traffic back-ups in the evening, when the lights weren't designed to handle the higher volume of vehicles.

Morrison said he thinks the state is about two months away from approving the timing changes that have been proposed.

Replacing the signals at School Road is not ideal, Morrison said. There are more problematic intersections along Route 22 — notably Trafford and Triangle roads and Branthoover Cut-off, he said.

But an accident in January destroyed much of the equipment at the School Road intersection, Morrison said. For replacing the equipment, Morrison recommended swapping video for radar to give officials a look at the type of technology they're considering putting in place in the future.

“Staff saw it as an opportunity,” Morrison said. “This was the right time to do it.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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