Smart Traffic

 

Written by Paul Fairchild in the April 2013 Issue

Traffic Lights

Traffic. It’s everywhere. Even in Edmond.

Tens of thousands of cars pass over Edmond roads everyday. As a growing city, Edmond is projected to reach a population of 85,000 by the end of this year. The hard fact is that more people means more cars on the road. But creative solutions coming out of the city of Edmond’s engineering department will help shrink the congestion caused by those cars. Here are five interesting things our city is doing to ease traffic congestion.

INTELLIGENT TRAFFIC SYSTEM

In 2008, Edmond’s engineers reached the conclusion that its current traffic monitoring systems would start becoming state-of-the-old over the next decade. The city’s most ambitious traffic project, the Intelligent Traffic System (ITS), is now underway and will come online, intersection by intersection, toward the end of this year. The ITS, in simplest terms, is a traffic brain. Edmond’s major traffic corridors will be transformed into nerves that feed real-time traffic data to a new, cutting-edge traffic monitoring system. Everything from intersections and traffic lights to cameras and sensors will be controlled from a new traffic management center, giving engineers the capability to manage congestion.

“The system will allow us to monitor traffic, especially during rush-hour periods, for system failures. We’ll be able to correct many of those failures right then and there without sending somebody into the field. It will allow us to manage traffic proactively. It’s part of an ongoing effort to decrease traffic congestion,” says Tom Minnick, Traffic Planner for the City of Edmond. By the end of the year, 21 intersections will be integrated into Edmond’s ITS. ITS projects are few and far between in Oklahoma, demonstrating Edmond’s willingness to strive for the best in new traffic management technologies.

REAL-TIME TRAFFIC INFORMATION

One of the feature capabilities of ITS is to provide realtime traffic information to motorists via the web, smartphones, and other devices.  Before they even turn the key, motorists could know the best routes for avoiding congestion. From closed intersections to temporary traffic detours, Edmond residents will have all the information needed to plot the quickest drives to their destinations.

STREET WIDENING

Lack of roadway capacity is the number one offender when it comes to traffic congestion. Sometimes old methods yield the best answers to new problems. Widening streets in developed sections of the city is difficult, sometimes impossible. But as Edmond grows outward, traffic planners are thinking ahead to accommodate future traffic in newly developed areas. The city’s expansion of Covell from Santa Fe to Thomas Drive is the latest example of this old method. New medians and turn lanes keep through traffic moving at a good clip. “This type of roadway segment is the model for what we’d like the rest of the roads in Edmond to be, but we can’t get there overnight,” says Minnick. “It’s going to take time, but we’re working toward it.”

2014 will see this process in action at 33rd and Broadway where additional turn lanes and signal lights will clear the intersection more quickly, especially during rush hour.

ACCESS MANAGEMENT

Downtown EdmondAccess management is coordination of land access and traffic flow. The basic premise is to preserve and enhance the performance and safety of the street system. Access management is the practice of optimizing access to land uses while preserving the capacity and safety of traffic on the roadway network. Turns from a main throughway can create heavy congestion. In most cases, it boils down to the simple addition of new turn lanes that allow cars to move off of the main roadways while approaching entrances to subdivisions, shopping centers and other destinations.

Access management also includes the construction of new medians. These promote safety by reducing left-turn collisions—which also cause congestion as traffic backs up behind accidents. Keeping accidents to a minimum keeps traffic rolling. Medians also make space for new traffic lighting, reducing nighttime accidents.

SIGNALIZATION

Signalization is traffic planning lingo for the process of timing lights at intersections to keep the number of red lights that a motorists hits along a major traffic corridor to a minimum. State-of-the-art sensors measure traffic volume. This data is evaluated and adjustments can be made to keep congestion along major roadways to a minimum.

In addition to getting drivers as far down a road as possible, signalization penalizes speeders. The timing of the lights is calibrated with speed limits in mind. Exceeding the speed limit leaves a driver parked at more red lights, almost guaranteeing that their journey will take longer than it would have if they had not put the pedal to the metal. Signalization works so well that, even in rush hour traffic, it only takes twelve minutes to cross from the west side of Edmond to the east—a statistic that bolsters Edmond’s claim to some of the best traffic management in Oklahoma.

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