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Frank Ferry: City tackles traffic fixes

Live From City Hall

Posted: February 11, 2010 10:05 p.m.
Updated: February 12, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

When Santa Clarita first became a city more than 20 years ago, one of its biggest challenges was improving traffic conditions in a city with heavy growth. The city faced this issue with resolve, embracing technology solutions while aggressively pursuing other innovative traffic improvements.

Today, the city of Santa Clarita has successfully reduced local commute times, eased congestion, improved traffic flow and enhanced the quality of life for its residents with a variety of traffic improvement projects and programs. City traffic staffers also constantly work to collect data, analyze traffic patterns, and respond to resident feedback regarding traffic issues in our local community.

City staffers diligently design and install traffic improvement projects whenever issues are recognized and opportunities arise. These improvements can include median and signal modifications, roadway restriping, traffic signal retiming and synchronization projects, battery backup system installations and much more.

Another new development for local traffic is the Intelligent Transportation System. Funded largely by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority grants, the program utilizes technology to allow city traffic engineers the flexibility to better monitor traffic patterns and complete real-time adjustments to signal timing. Phase III of the program is under way with improvements set to take place across the city.

All of the city’s 174 signalized intersections connect to the Traffic Operations Center, the core of the city’s Intelligent Transportation System. Located at City Hall, the Traffic Operations Center receives data from traffic controllers, video signals from closed-circuit television cameras, video detection cameras and 17 wireless traffic detector “count” stations. The system connects wirelessly through 30 miles of fiber optic cable and 17 miles of copper wire.

When used in conjunction with the Traffic Operations Center, the new Intelligent Transportation System is a powerful tool to monitor traffic conditions and information such as speed and volume of cars traveling through intersections. With the improvements in place through Phase I and II of the Intelligent Transportation System, city staff can monitor and retime signals remotely and deploy maintenance crews to respond to emergencies and incidents.

Phase III of the program, funded by a state Traffic Light Synchronization Program grant, will install additional traffic detector stations at strategic locations to enhance traffic monitoring efforts. The grant will also help the city finalize and launch a new online program later this year, tentatively called “TrafficInfo.”

Accessed from the city’s Web site, TrafficInfo will offer real-time information on local traffic conditions, similar to sigalert.com, from 43 stations at major roadways. The online tool will also offer up-to-the-minute information on traffic congestion and speed conditions, construction delays and closures, and real-time photo snapshots of intersections.

The system is also crucial in determining possible construction modifications to local streets to improve traffic circulation. One such project under way is the city’s Right Turn Pocket Circulation and Safety Improvement Project on northbound Whites Canyon Road at Soledad Canyon Road, which will eliminate the need for northbound drivers to slow for turning traffic.

The city also works diligently to perform regular maintenance and install the latest technology at local signals, including Battery Backup systems to keep traffic signals operating in power outages, replacing incandescent signal lamps with more energy-efficient LED lights, and installing pedestrian countdown indications at 80 percent of the city’s signals.

In addition to constantly monitoring and updating signal timing throughout the year, city staffers synchronize traffic signals every three years. The goal of synchronization is to allow the greatest number of vehicles to travel through the system with the fewest stops, further reducing congestion and supporting the smooth operation of signals along major corridors and roadways.

As Santa Clarita continues to grow and change, city traffic engineers will continue to monitor our local streets to ensure that traffic congestion is minimal for local residents. Keep an eye out for new updates and changes to our local traffic system, as well as the launch of the “TrafficInfo” program later this year.

Residents with issues and concerns about local traffic conditions can contact the city’s Traffic Division at (661) 286-4061 or visit santa-clarita.com/traffic.

Frank Ferry is a Santa Clarita City Council member. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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