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  • City tries to get traffic signals in sync

    I'd like to see them do away with the timing system alltogether and go with the sensors in the street, that allow for a signal change if no one is driving with the green.


    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/new...1?OpenDocument

    City tries to get traffic signals in sync
    By Elisa Crouch
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    03/12/2008

    March 6, 2008--Left, Tom Shelley and Kevin Russell, of Gerstner Electric, prepare the base of the upgraded traffic controller that will synchronize the traffic lights at the corner of Olive and 10th streets.
    (Emily Rasinski /P-D)

    ST. LOUIS — It's every driver's dream: An endless string of green lights and a nonstop commute to and from work. But in downtown St. Louis, drivers mostly hit reds.

    The city's attempt to synchronize downtown traffic signals has been a stop-and-go effort since 2005, leaving strings of signals changing without rhyme or rhythm.

    "It takes me about 12 minutes to drive 11 blocks," said Mary Stamm of Arnold, who works for AT&T. On Chestnut Street alone, she said, "It's at least five to six stops."

    A $2.6 million project to improve signals at 55 downtown intersections is near completion after hitting underground obstacles. The goal is to move traffic better, shave travel time, save gasoline and reduce driver frustration.

    Crews are going down manholes to string fiber optic cables through underground conduits — tubes and pipes that contain wiring — belonging to Ameren. Then they're cutting open the streets to connect each intersection to the next, and to the Street Department's control room on Hampton Avenue.

    In the process, crews have encountered more problems than they expected. Below downtown lies a complex system of utility cables, water and sewer lines, and old street car tracks. Crews have found that much of the pipe needed for fiber optic cable has bent or collapsed over time. As a result, crews must run their wiring around that problem area instead of proceeding directly to the next intersection.

    "Some of those pipes have been in there 50 years or more," said Mitch Kluesner, a lineman for Gerstner Electric, the Fenton-based contractor for the job. "A little shift in the ground and you can get a pipe that's just broken, the sides are against each other and you can't pull wire through."

    City officials briefly discussed using wireless technology to avoid the underground problems. The Missouri Department of Transportation installed wireless technology to coordinate signals on Manchester Avenue in the city. But downtown has too many tall buildings and bends in the street for wireless to work, said Tom Huelman, project engineer with the St. Louis Board of Public Service.

    The problems are the main reason the project is four months behind and could add $20,000 to costs, Huelman said. Delays in material shipments are also to blame. There is no penalty to the contractor since it's outside the contractor's control. With all 35,000 feet of fiber optic cable laid, and 22 of 55 new traffic light controllers installed, work the project should end late next month.

    Drivers should notice a change immediately. Adjustments to signal timing will continue for months after that, Huelman said.

    Cameras at major intersections will allow traffic officials at the Hampton headquarters to watch for backups and adjust signal timing when traffic flow changes. That should help with traffic for baseball and football games and other major events, while making life easier for downtown's 10,000 residents.

    But for the next month, drivers must cope with downtown's 40-year-old traffic signal technology. It requires technicians to adjust signal timing on site and manually. Signals often malfunction, sending lights to flash.

    "It can be pretty temperamental," said Steve Harris, engineering technician with the Board of Public Service, which oversees city public works projects.

    It also elevates blood pressure.

    Sheri Fox of Green Park feels the frustration each time she drives Tucker Boulevard. A red light turns green, and then the light at the next block turns red.

    "I'm wondering who synced the lights," she said.

    She's not the only one.

    [email protected] | 314-340-8119
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  • #2
    I do not have a problem with it during the regular working hours of a day, but if I am downtown at midnight or at 6am when there is little traffic and I have to stop at every light, then it is stupid.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Guppy View Post
      I do not have a problem with it during the regular working hours of a day, but if I am downtown at midnight or at 6am when there is little traffic and I have to stop at every light, then it is stupid.
      Good point. Especially when I'm at 9th and Cass after a ballgame, trying to get to I-70. I'll admit to running that light on a few occasions.
      Make America Great For Once.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
        Good point. Especially when I'm at 9th and Cass after a ballgame, trying to get to I-70. I'll admit to running that light on a few occasions.
        I could not tell you how many lights I've ran on Olive or Tucker in the past. It has been a lot though. When I worked nights down there, I would watch the traffic when work was slow sometimes and see countless people run the lights....cops included (without their sirens or flashing lights on).
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        • #5
          Why they're not centralized and coordinated is beyond me.
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          • #6
            I've always thought that we could curb our nation's gas usage (and emmssions) by at least 10% if we just synched or sensorized all of the stoplights

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Hepatitis Dispenser View Post
              I've always thought that we could curb our nation's gas usage (and emmssions) by at least 10% if we just synched or sensorized all of the stoplights
              That kinda sounds crazy, but you prob really aren't far off. I'm amazed at how many different towns and citys can't get their lights in sync(including this one...especially downtown).
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              • #8
                They are more interested in putting in those nifty red light cameras for our protection.
                "There is an old saying that goes 'no matter how good you are, there is always someone better.' That someone is me." - Chiun

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by blue zone View Post
                  They are more interested in putting in those nifty red light cameras for our protection.
                  Yep.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by blue zone View Post
                    They are more interested in putting in those nifty red light cameras for our protection.
                    I was downtown last night and noticed cameras up at several intersections. Not red light ones but more for watching people. I think they got those up in Indy too.
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                    • #11
                      I would tend to think that at a certain time those timed intersections will switch to flash yellow/red based on the "importance" of the road.

                      In other words, if you have a "main" road through downtown then all the timed lights would flash yellow for them and the side streets would flash red.

                      That's the way the timed intersections work here.

                      BTW, the sensored intersections probably wouldn't work well for the side streets. They'd never get a chance to go and you'd have traffic backing up into the adjacent "main" road causing more problems than timed lights would.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Guppy View Post
                        I was downtown last night and noticed cameras up at several intersections. Not red light ones but more for watching people. I think they got those up in Indy too.
                        There are alot of cams going up in the city....Brentwwod in particular will soon be littered with them.
                        "There is an old saying that goes 'no matter how good you are, there is always someone better.' That someone is me." - Chiun

                        I require the lubrication to successfully handle some of them. *sigh*- Sunuvanun

                        Matrem tuam pedicavi

                        "I kinda dig Johnson" -Triggercut

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                        • #13
                          There was an editorial in last month's (March) Car and Driver detailing incidents where municipalities have shortened yellow lights at intersections where red light cameras were installed. They also mentioned an increase of rear-end collisions where red light cameras were installed.

                          -RBB

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Guppy View Post
                            I was downtown last night and noticed cameras up at several intersections. Not red light ones but more for watching people. I think they got those up in Indy too.
                            Those are probably sensors for the lights - so the light will only change if they sense there's a car waiting to cross a major intersection - though they do double as monitoring cameras, too.

                            -RBB

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RedBirdBrain View Post
                              There was an editorial in last month's (March) Car and Driver detailing incidents where municipalities have shortened yellow lights at intersections where red light cameras were installed. They also mentioned an increase of rear-end collisions where red light cameras were installed.

                              -RBB
                              I know the ones in St Petes are....what doubly sux is that the company monitoring them gets paid by the ticket, and not by the camera.
                              "There is an old saying that goes 'no matter how good you are, there is always someone better.' That someone is me." - Chiun

                              I require the lubrication to successfully handle some of them. *sigh*- Sunuvanun

                              Matrem tuam pedicavi

                              "I kinda dig Johnson" -Triggercut

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