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Traffic flow is no accident in Cranberry

| Saturday, June 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Bill Vidonic Tribune-Review Motorists pass through the intersection of Route 19 and 228 in Cranberry. A recent Carnegie Mellon University study said that the township saved motorists about $2 million by coordinating traffic signals in 2011.

Coordinating traffic signals on Cranberry's busy roads in 2011 saved motorists about $2 million annually, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers.

“We can't keep adding pavement,” township Manager Jerry Andree said. “We have to move traffic efficiently.”

In 2010, the township opened a traffic operation center, where it monitors traffic flows and traffic signals. The next year, the township spent about $80,000 through a federal grant to coordinate and time signals so traffic could flow as smoothly as possible through major corridors along Routes 19 and 228 and Freedom Road.

Coordinating the signals helps drivers in the region save about $2 annually on fuel and wear and tear on their vehicles, CMU postdoctoral researchers Yeganeh Mashayekh and Chris Hendrickson found through the university's Traffic 21 research program. Cranberry drivers save about $600,000.

The township maintains 44 traffic signals, including 37 within the township limits, and a few in outlying communities, including Adams and Marshall.

“It is important to note that Cranberry Township maintains its traffic signal system regularly and updates its signal timing frequently to address demand and fluctuations,” the researchers said. The study notes that retiming the signals every year would cost the township about $160,000.

Andree said the township doesn't do all signals each year, but “we're always tinkering,” something the study said many communities don't do.

The study also recommends that the township look at adaptive signal timing technology, which adjusts signals in real time, as traffic patterns change. The cost, however, in Cranberry, could be $1.5 million.

Andree said the township is “overturning every stone we can” for grants to install the system.

“Traffic management can save so much money,” Andree said. “That's the best place to put money.”

The study is scheduled to be presented to the Transportation and Development Institute at the American Society of Civil Engineers' conference in November in Austin, Texas.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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