By this time next year, Lawrence should have a smarter batch of traffic signals.
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday approved a nearly $60,000 contract to design a project that will better synchronize traffic lights on portions of Sixth Street and Iowa Street.
“It is going to give us the tool to give more green lights to get people dispersed quicker,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works.
At their weekly meeting, commissioners approved a timeline for the project that calls for construction to begin in June and for work to be finished in November 2010.
The project will involve running fiber optic cable along Sixth Street from Massachusetts to Iowa streets, and along Iowa Street from Sixth to 23rd streets. The cable will allow the traffic signals to be synchronized via a city computer, which will give the city the ability to change the timing of traffic signals on Kansas University game days, snow events and other unusual traffic days.
Other features of the new system will include:
• Automatic notification of traffic signal malfunctions, which should lead to quicker repairs.
• Video monitoring of intersections with 360 degree cameras. The video monitoring will allow city crews to make adjustments to the lights to deal with traffic accidents or other unusual traffic situations.
The Kansas Department of Transportation already has committed $250,000 to the project. The remaining $250,000 will come from city funds, though Soules said he’s approaching KU and county leaders about a possible cost-sharing arrangement.
Soules said additional fiber optic cable could be added to the project for a minimal cost. If the university and county were willing to contribute to the project, the additional fiber could be used to create a communication system that connects county and university facilities. Soules said with the cost savings, the city could perhaps expand the project farther west on Sixth Street or begin to run cable down a portion of 23rd Street.
The city has an overall plan for synchronizing lights on major streets throughout the city. The cost estimate for that plan is about $3 million.
City Commissioner Mike Dever said he’s excited to see how much the new system will help improve traffic flow.
“I think we’re going to have to wait and see how efficient it makes us,” Dever said. “I think it is going to be a nice pilot program. When you have a street grid like ours with so few roads going all the way across the community, it is really important that we keep the ones we have moving efficiently.”