That's why the Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday approved an application for a state grant to purchase technology that would monitor traffic on the city's busiest streets and change the signals to control the flow of vehicles.
"This ties the signals together," said George Williams, the city's director of Public Works. "It's a state-of-the-art-type improvement."
The money would come from the Kansas Department of Transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems Set-Aside Fund, which is allocating $2 million annually for such projects over the next two years.
The city wants to use the technology on Iowa and Sixth streets, with a cost of $271,000 and $318,000, respectively. The state grant would be matched with 10 percent of city money.
The system would use an existing fiber-optic cable to link the signals together and to a central computer. Officials say it would increase safety and driver satisfaction with the roads, while reducing travel time and environmental problems associated with traffic.
Officials say the system can be expanded once it's in place.
"The central system control would be capable of eventually linking with all traffic signals in the city, and be upgraded to serve other (intelligent transportation systems) uses," David Woosley, the city traffic engineer, wrote in the grant application.
"Do we expect this will change the timing of the lights, or is this getting the infrastructure in place to do that?" Commissioner David Dunfield asked Williams.
"On Iowa, the signals favor northbound traffic in the morning and southbound traffic in the afternoon," Williams said. "This would allow us to make a progression, or to see if it's even needed."
The city applied for a similar grant last year, but lost out to other communities. KDOT will notify grant recipients by the end of July; the technology could be installed in 2002.
-- Staff writer Joel Mathis can be reached at 832-7126.