Now that the loops of wire are gone and a 1.2-mile stretch of 23rd Street is coated with 4,000 tons of fresh asphalt, it’s time for watchful electronic eyes to take over.
Work is underway to install new traffic-detecting cameras atop signals at four intersections along 23rd: at Massachusetts, Louisiana and Alabama streets, and at Ousdahl Road.
The cameras won’t take pictures or snag red-light-running drivers. Instead, they will detect when vehicles are waiting to pass through each intersection, triggering green lights as appropriate.
Such signals already are in place along sections of Sixth, Iowa and 23rd streets, as the city gears up plans to create an “intelligent transportation system” — a collection of signals, connected by fiber-optic cable, to allow for centralized traffic management.
Under the system, traffic engineers could make real-time changes to traffic patterns and adjust flows in response to accidents, rush-hour congestion or even game-day gatherings at Kansas University’s Memorial Stadium or Allen Fieldhouse.
For now the system is being implemented only at six intersections along Sixth, from Massachusetts to Iowa, and possibly a few intersections along Iowa. But others could follow as financing allows.
“All of this is part of that planning,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works.
Before such cameras came along, traffic-detection at intersections typically involved coiling wire “loops” beneath the pavement, to detect when a vehicle was waiting to pass through. Such information would be transmitted to a controller box off to the side, which would be programmed to make adjustments depending on the time of day.
Cameras can make the process more flexible, by allowing signals to be hooked up to one another and have their actions coordinated by people working at a central location: in the city’s case, the Traffic Engineering building at Fifth and Mississippi streets.
Soules also likes the cameras for their durability. While they cost more than detector loops — cameras will cost the city $26,000 at each of the four intersections on 23rd — they do not have to be replaced when the city repaves a streets, Soules said.
“We don’t have to tear out those loops and replace them again,” Soules said.
Implementation of the intelligent transportation system is expected to begin next year.