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Archive for Wednesday, September 22, 2010

$500,000 project will give Lawrence remote control traffic lights

Fiber optic cable to connect signals

A pedestrian crosses Sixth Street at the intersection of Sixth and Massachusetts streets Wednesday as traffic comes to a stop at the intersections of Sixth and Vermont and Sixth and Kentucky. City officials are preparing to have fiber-optic cable installed along Sixth Street from Massachusetts to Iowa streets and on Iowa Street between 23rd and Sixth streets to enable real-time adjustments to traffic lights that can help the flow of traffic.

A pedestrian crosses Sixth Street at the intersection of Sixth and Massachusetts streets Wednesday as traffic comes to a stop at the intersections of Sixth and Vermont and Sixth and Kentucky. City officials are preparing to have fiber-optic cable installed along Sixth Street from Massachusetts to Iowa streets and on Iowa Street between 23rd and Sixth streets to enable real-time adjustments to traffic lights that can help the flow of traffic.

September 22, 2010, 4:57 p.m. Updated September 22, 2010, 5:29 p.m.

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It is a tool that every commuter would drool over.

New project to make traffic signals better

A $500,000 project will help traffic flow better on some of Lawrence's busier streets. The project is set to begin in October. Enlarge video

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A $500,000 project will begin next month that will allow city engineers to control about a dozen Lawrence traffic signals via remote control.

Complete Streets

Figuring out a way to make Lawrence streets friendlier for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users will be the topic of an upcoming city-sponsored discussion.

City planners are hosting a presentation on Complete Streets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Carol Kachadoorian, a planner with the National Complete Streets Coalition, will provide an overview of the subject, and discuss how existing streets can be retrofitted and how new street designs can save the city money.

The goal of the Complete Streets movement is for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities to be able to travel conveniently along any street.

City leaders are touting it as the first step in a high-tech plan to get traffic moving more efficiently through the city.

“This should give us a lot more flexibility to meet immediate traffic demands,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works.

The project will involve burying fiber-optic cable that will connect traffic signals on parts of Sixth Street and parts of Iowa Street. The signals then will be connected to a new control center that will be housed in the city’s traffic engineering building at Fifth and Mississippi streets.

From that building, traffic engineers could type a few commands into a computer and tell a light to stay green to clear out a batch of particularly heavy traffic. Now, the only way to get a light to change before its normal cycle is for a traffic engineer to go to the site and adjust its timer.

City leaders think the new remote control system will be helpful in several situations. Kansas University game days, accidents and traffic signal malfunctions are near the top of the list.

“The system will automatically notify us when there is a malfunction at the light,” said David Woosley, city traffic engineer. “It even will allow a technician to log in from home during the middle of the night.”

New cameras

The system also allows cameras to be installed at intersections. That creates the possibility of real-time video being fed to the control center, where an operator can change lights based on actual traffic conditions. Woosley said that won’t be how the system will operate initially because the city doesn’t have the staffing to do such intensive monitoring, and the initial system will include only about six cameras.

“But we do hope that this is just the beginning,” Woosley said.

The project has been discussed for more than a year at City Hall, but it is now moving forward after commissioners this week accepted a bid for the construction work to begin in mid-October. Work is expected to last through February.

Traffic engineers are cautioning that the new system won’t solve all problems. That’s in part because the system is starting out small. On Sixth Street, only lights between Massachusetts and Iowa streets will be connected. On Iowa, the project will stretch from Sixth to 23rd streets.

Fiber-optic benefits

The city is receiving $250,000 in state grant money to help fund the project. The city also is hopeful that it will be able to recoup some of its investment by putting the fiber to other uses. City staff members have been in discussions with KU and the county about a partnership that would allow those two groups to use some of the excess fiber capacity for their communication needs. The city also may use some of the fiber to connect city facilities and cut down on the amount of money it pays for Internet service. The city also plans to issue a request for proposals from private companies interested in using some of the excess fiber capacity.

“The fiber optic cable really is the hidden treasure in all this,” said Commissioner Mike Dever, who has been lobbying for the project. “This could be a chance for us to offer an economic incentive to a company that wants to do business in Lawrence, and it might be an incentive that won’t cost us much because we’re already getting the value of the fiber.”

If the project works well, Soules said the city likely will pursue state funding to connect the lights along 23rd Street. Soules said the city decided to start with Sixth and Iowa streets because those were the two major streets closest to the command center at Fifth and Mississippi.

Comments

maxhok 4 years, 2 months ago

wish most of the traffic lights in Lawrence, especially those with long waits even when there is no cross traffic were replaced with roundabouts, then it would be as easy to get around as most European cities.

Eric Holscher 4 years, 2 months ago

Agreed. Roundabouts make so much sense for low traffic intersections. I'm sure there's a point where the amount of traffic (and people's unfamiliarity with them) makes them slower, but every time i see a light out in the boondocks at midnight that I have to wait a minute for, I die a little inside.

drnater 4 years, 2 months ago

About time! The most frustrating part about this town is the stoplights. Like most things it has ups and down but the upside is vastly greater!

puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

funny thing about 6th street: east of iowa, 6th street is treated as the main road, with long green lights and (gasp) generally quick, great and safe traffic flow with few accidents....West of Iowa, there seems to be a stop light for every 500 feet. 6th street is treated as the side-roadway, always red, and the side streets always have one or two cars stopping the cascade of traffic flow along 6th like a cork in a jug. drive it tonight, you will see exactly what I mean. I drive it everyday and notice how much more unsafe the addition of so many stoplights is...last week: a wreck at rockledge. a wreck at schwartz, two wrecks (injury-accidents) at lawrence avenue, no wrecks at kasold (the light that is always red no matter which way you are going) four wrecks in the stretch between monterey way and folks rd. and no wrecks at wakarusa, wal-mart's road paid for by you the taxpayer, nor stoneridge drive. how about just extending the time for green west of Iowa, and slowing down the ridiculous cycles that all of these lights are set up as? really, why does one car turning left onto 6th from folks road stop 30 cars that are already on 6th? (big DOUG's intersection) he is so important, lets just build him an overpass and yield lane so he can merge onto 6th without making everyone else stop. makes sense to me.

Take_a_letter_Maria 4 years, 2 months ago

You are the cause of those accidents pg because you are so damn pretty.

puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

well, ya got me there: I am very pretty and people stare at me all the time. I guess the shimmering brilliance emanating from my head could possibly cause some people temporary blindness-or at least put most females in a slack-jawed stupor, I'm used to it-but I never considered the effect on their driving abilities. from now on, i will try to drive with one of those lamp-shade looking things they put around a dog's neck to prevent the dog from chewing on themself. Hopefully, it will cut down on all the stares and comments and well-wishers as I usher my beautiful, flawless head down the street-in my equally (well, c'mon-nothing is quite equal) beautiful, flawless car which has a mirror-finish in which I admit I often find myself gazing in wonder at my own amazingly all-natural perfectly proportionate facial reflection. It is such a sight, i wish I could frame it, or at least put it on youtube. pardon me, lawrence. Now, on to offer other less fortunates (ugly people) a brief opportunity to feel good about themselves as I spread hope and golden rays of atmosphere upon all who encounter my sphere of beauty.

lawrencian 4 years, 2 months ago

The lights on 6th at Massachusetts, Vermont, and Kentucky are the only ones in town that are timed well enough to work -- they don't need to be changed!

Bobo Fleming 4 years, 2 months ago

I think that Stalin had these. He like to go through all the lights without stopping. He would roar out of the Kremlin at full speed and go thru the streets of Moscow. I wonder if our fearless leaders will get the remote for these.

Sagecasey 4 years, 2 months ago

Honestly, it is Lawrence. Proximity is relative. We can't wait an extra minute for a light, then find another way. Please spend our tax dollars on something more worthy. Try moving to a major metropolitan area and then complain about the wait at some of the city traffic lights. Otherwise, suck it up!!

randerson 4 years, 2 months ago

Seriously. Lawrence needs a state of the art traffic system? Are you kidding me? Visit a city. They need them. Lawrence needs to find something else to talk about and spend money on.

mdrndgtl 4 years, 2 months ago

Welcome news. Our "traffic engineers" have been asleep at the wheel for a decade now.

clovis_sangrail 4 years, 2 months ago

Sixth Street and Iowa Street?

Sounds like they are there to funnel traffic to and from the turnpike on game days.

You don't think they'll have someone manning the control center on normal days, do you?

SeaFox 4 years, 2 months ago

So now only Football/Basketball fans will be able to get anywhere on game days, as the rest of us who, you know, LIVE in Lawrence and have to work on those days will not be able to get a green light to cross either of those streets at all.

irnmadn88 4 years, 2 months ago

Hmm. Is this coordinated in any way with the anticipated reopening of the North Lawrence I-70 interchange and the closing of the West Lawrence I-70 interchange? Because when the West Lawrence exit closes, all hell in the form of parking lots is going to happen on east bound 6th street just to get across the river to I-70...

gccs14r 4 years, 2 months ago

Why? Exit 197 isn't that far away if you're already at 6th and Iowa, and there are at least four reasonable routes to get to 197 from there.

irnmadn88 4 years, 2 months ago

Thinking more like 6th at Michigan, Maine, Kentucky, Vermont, and Massachusetts...

hail2oldku 4 years, 2 months ago

I must be missing something here because the West Lawrence interchange was just rebuilt. LAST YEAR.

irnmadn88 4 years, 2 months ago

Nope. The round-a-bout was put in on the north side and a new bridge constructed as that span of the river bridge on the interstate was completed first. Once the south span of the river bridge and the new North Lawrence interchange is completed, they will close the West Lawrence interchange again and redesign/rebuild the portion south of the interstate.

Kash_Encarri 4 years, 2 months ago

Even for the turnpike authority that makes no sense at all.

Do you have a link to this information? I dug around a little on the KTA website, but didn't see anything.

hail2oldku 4 years, 2 months ago

I was thinking the same thing Kash. The only information regarding a complete plaza rebuild is for the North Lawrence exit. The scope of the work outlined in the bid awards and the news releases that I could find indicate West Lawrence is done.

How about it irnmadn88? I'm all for mocking the bureaucracy, but I can't find anything like you are referring to anywhere.

irnmadn88 4 years, 2 months ago

I do not think the Toll Booths are going to be rebuilt at the West Lawrence exit. I went looking for the story that mentioned the timeline but I could not find it. I may be mistaken. However, I seem to recall that when they reopen the North Lawrence exit and have both spans of the bridge open, that the West Lawrence exit was to close for a period of time to align the Eastbound on/off ramps.

gccs14r 4 years, 2 months ago

One quick fix for one traffic problem would be to leave the 19th and Haskell light active 24/7 instead of pulling a Mayberry and switching it to a flashing light at 10 p.m.

gccs14r 4 years, 2 months ago

Apparently you never drive through there after 10. Besides, what does switching the light accomplish? All it does is confuse people and cause accidents.

gccs14r 4 years, 2 months ago

I live about two blocks from that light and go through it at least twice per day. I've seen people stop at the flashing yellow and try to wave through folks sitting at the flashing red. It's really bad right at 10 when it changes with a bunch of cars in the intersection. Chaos reigns for a few minutes as people try to figure out whether to go or not. They should at least change the cutover time to midnight, since there is still a lot of traffic there at 10.

gatekeeper 4 years, 2 months ago

It sounds like stupid people are the problem, so the city's supposed to change everything so stupid people can get around better? They do flashing lights along 6th st and in N. Lawrence at night and I've never seen a problem. It's actually really nice.

gccs14r 4 years, 2 months ago

It has ever been thus. They're probably the same folks who stop in the Barker circle to let people in.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"City leaders think the new remote control system will be helpful in several situations. Kansas University game days, accidents and traffic signal malfunctions are near the top of the list."

Perhaps a silly question, but if the light is malfunctioning, does it matter where you control it from? How many remote traffic engineers does it take to change a light bulb?

Also, without traffic cameras, how will they know when a light needs to be adjusted to clear backed-up traffic, or for how long? Wouldn't someone actually have to be there to see it? And if they're there to see it, why don't they just fix it from there instead of driving back to Fifth and Mississippi?

Eride 4 years, 2 months ago

Seems silly to network a few lights but the grant for the infrastructure is valuable on its own.

Fiber is expensive to lay it only benefits the city having an outside grant pay for it.

nut_case 4 years, 2 months ago

While I applaud the effort, a $500,000 fiber optic system to send "red", "yellow" and "green" signals to a dozen traffic lights seems a bit excessive. I would think a wireless system could be deployed a lot cheaper and still offer plenty of bandwidth for real time video and a few spare bits per second to still change the color of the light. Anybody can stream epic fail and lol cats off youtube with a simple wireless set-up. Can't imagine traffic video being much different.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Hey - then maybe they could install a few screens and people could watch youtube while stuck at one of the malfunctioning lights!

average 4 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, the bandwidth doesn't seem very much at all, even with video. If the $500k were going to just the networking, I'd suggest a commercial (Sunflower/ATT) run to each spot, at, say, $250/year, and the fiber would have to last 170 years to pay for itself. This isn't something that really needs 99.9999% reliability (it would fall back to a programmed mode).

I'm guessing virtually the entire cost of the project is on the replacement controllers at the lights. Which are apparently expensive as heck. Few makers, DOT certification, etc.

mklopp 4 years, 2 months ago

Exactly where will the new fiber optic lines be placed? Does this mean the city is going to have to dig up Iowa Street from 9th to University Drive again? That last construction job took forever to complete! I'm pretty sure that construction company didn't get any "early completion bonus".

Chad Lawhorn 4 years, 2 months ago

The conduit is already in place. The project involves placing the fiber in the conduit. Public Works officials said they expect very little traffic disruption as part of the project. Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

cowboy 4 years, 2 months ago

Memo to City

Try fixing the potholes , repairing the curbs , clearing the snow

A couple of South Junior high students could set up monitoring for a couple hundred bucks and run it off their x box systems , save a half mill and move on.

CountyResident 4 years, 2 months ago

More people should ride the bus and save the taxpayers $500,000.00.

mystifiedalarm 4 years, 2 months ago

I think if the LJW is going to write a story they ought to look at all sides. Where is the money coming from? Is this truly needed over other things - such as streets that still have pot holes that make you feel as if your driving on a washboard. I just don't understand the "spend on new toys" syndrome. LJW try reporting instead of being a cheerleader!

puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

those are traffic CALMING devices...I feel so calm when I drove through them. like a game of moon patrol

gatekeeper 4 years, 2 months ago

Will never happen. They never repaved the detour route in N. Lawrence after fixing the intersection (we had semi's on residential streets for over a year that mangled the road). The city claims the job is complete. They come and fill the potholes every couple of months when people call in pissed about them. Come winter, it's going to look like bombs went off on those roads. The city did repave lots of back roads in N. Lawrence that were fine. I don't think anyone has a brain in the public works dept. I've called many times, always told they're in meetings and can never get a call back.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

I would think that simply timing the lights so that one can drive reasonably and make them would be a better solution to our traffic issues.

puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

yeah, here's some facts: east of iowa, 6th street is treated as the main road, with long green lights and (gasp) generally quick, great and safe traffic flow with few accidents....West of Iowa, there seems to be a stop light for every 500 feet. 6th street is treated as the side-roadway, always red, and the side streets always have one or two cars stopping the cascade of traffic flow along 6th like a cork in a jug. drive it tonight, you will see exactly what I mean. I drive it everyday and notice how much more unsafe the addition of so many stoplights is...last week: a wreck at rockledge. a wreck at schwartz, two wrecks (injury-accidents) at lawrence avenue, no wrecks at kasold (the light that is always red no matter which way you are going) four wrecks in the stretch between monterey way and folks rd. and no wrecks at wakarusa, wal-mart's road paid for by you the taxpayer, nor stoneridge drive. how about just extending the time for green west of Iowa, and slowing down the ridiculous cycles that all of these lights are set up as? really, why does one car turning left onto 6th from folks road stop 30 cars that are already on 6th? (big DOUG's intersection) he is so important, lets just build him an overpass and yield lane so he can merge onto 6th without making everyone else stop. makes sense to me.

amrose42683 4 years, 2 months ago

Yet trying to turn onto 6th from a side street that has no light during rush hour takes anywhere from 5 - 10 minutes sometimes. And no I'm not exaggerating, I was waiting behind a guy needing to turn left on 6th St. off of Mississippi after dropping children off at Pinckney yesterday morning, and we were there for 10minutes, traffic backed up to past 5th St, and I was almost late for work

gccs14r 4 years, 2 months ago

If it's busy, I don't even try to turn left onto major streets without a light. It's just not that far out of the way to take a different route. Fro example, when leaving KU Credit Union on 6th, I go north on Frontier up to Trail, then cut over to Lawrence Ave. and head back south to turn left onto 6th at the light. Saves time, reduces the chance of an accident, and no one ends up stuck behind me.

puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

amrose, I hear ya loud and clear-so try this: if you wanna turn left onto 6th street, don't. turn right instead-and then get in the left lane, then turn left at your earliest convenience-then turn around and turn back right...now you are headed in the direction you wanted to be. I do it all the time and it saves a whole LOT of time.

Kristine Bailey 4 years, 2 months ago

Doesn't look like 19th Street is on the radar any time soon. Rush hour there is beyond belief. West bound cars crossing Louisiana with a green light, stop in the intersection because the lights at Tennessee AND Kentucky are RED. If not that, some west bound car is trying to turn left on Ohio just past the light. Really? How about this, turn off the car activated stop light for people north bound on Kentucky crossing 19th from 4-6pm. Put up "No Left Turn 4-6pm" signs where there is no turning lane on 19th. Problem #2 Southbound Louisiana at 23rd. Everyday, people are trying to get in and out of the strip mall on the NW corner. There are clearly marked double yellow lines on Louisiana since it is so close to the stoplight. But northbound LA patrons get in the southbound left turn lane to make their illegal turn into the parking lot.. If not that, the stopped southbound do gooders are making a hole for the patrons to turn left onto LA. It's a nightmare. PLEASE put up some signs to re frame from this activity during rush hour and if it is illegal always to cross the double yellow please state that instead. Thank you very much

labmonkey 4 years, 2 months ago

We give the computers more control and pretty soon, Skynet takes over.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 2 months ago

Why can't we just build a freakin' bypass? That way everyone wouldn't have to drive through town all the time. Face it, there's no easy way out of or through Lawrence...

It doesn't have to be through the freakin' Wetlands (man made marsh). Just build it! I think it'd clear up a lot of traffic issues in town.

gccs14r 4 years, 2 months ago

Won't do a darn thing for in-town traffic. It'd be like using the current bypass to get from 6th and Iowa down to Office Depot. If they want to facilitate crosstown traffic on 23rd, they need to do to 23rd what Wichita did to Kellogg.

Lisa Rasor 4 years, 2 months ago

That created a powerful visual. Yikes.

Tony Kisner 4 years, 2 months ago

I would like to see the payback calculations for this one. They could use $50.00 and fix the two foot hole in the road in front of my house. Maybe they could fill the hole with fiber optics and call it new green infrastructure.

Andreas Moeller 4 years, 2 months ago

I dont know what the remote control can really achieve, but if the traffic lights along the major roads where synchronized to create a "green wave" that might help a lot to keep traffic flowing. And traffic from the side roads would still get a chance to get across. Its a system that is used in many major cities in Europe. But hey what do I know, I am just a foreigner with funny ideas.

jumpin_catfish 4 years, 2 months ago

Some of the streets on the east side are HORRIBLE but the city has 500K to upgrade traffic lights. Hmmmm

randerson 4 years, 2 months ago

fixing some sidewalks downtown would be another better use of 500 grand

puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

oh c'mon, sidewalks? who needs 'em.

let's build a dragstrip instead. I would LOVE that.

zooming 4 years, 2 months ago

“The fiber optic cable really is the hidden treasure in all this,” said Commissioner Mike Dever, who has been lobbying for the project.

Congratulations Commissioner Dever. You found another new way to subsidize Joshua Montgomery's for-profit company, Community Wireless, by funding the construction of a fiber optic network he can use to sell his free internet.

Commissioners: Half a million bucks for a traffic signal network? Really? $250,000 from taxpayers? Really? Has anyone asked Lawrence Freenet to provide free connectivity to satisfy the ITS needs over their City-Wide Wifi system? The Community Wireless network is already attached to the taxpayer's water towers and light pole infrastructure practically rent-free.

The Lawrence Freenet network coverage should allow the city to control every traffic signal in the city instead of just those down 6th Street and Iowa Street. I have to believe the Freenet network could pass-through simple on-off commands for green, yellow and red lights along with some low resolution video. Especially if its just for the few times we have high traffic events (weekdays 730-830a, 5-545p, game days, parades).

Montgomery comes down to City Hall almost every week to talk to city leaders. I guess we'll soon see if all the time he spends with city staff and commissioners has paid off again.

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