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Santa Clarita signals get adjustments

Federal guidelines on pedestrians' rate of walking causes change in synchronizing citywide

Posted: April 28, 2013 4:13 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2013 4:13 p.m.

Santa Clarita Traffic engineer Andrew Yi, center, and Signal Operations Supervisor Cesar Romo, right, monitor traffic at City Hall. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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How long does it take for the pedestrian to cross the road?

The answer to that question proved key for Santa Clarita city traffic engineers responsible for synchronizing the city’s signals.

The months-long process of re-timing more than 100 signals at Santa Clarita intersections was initially completed months ago, according to city Senior Traffic Engineer Andrew Yi. The city was all set to deploy the revised timing when new provisions of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices extended the time required to allow pedestrians to cross through an intersection.

“It was unavoidable for us because of the extra timing,” Yi said during an interview last week.

That requirement is based on the width of an intersection and was raised from the assumption pedestrians would travel 4 feet per second in intersections to the assumption they would travel 3.5 feet per second, lengthening the time pedestrians have to cross a street by 5 to 7 seconds, according to Cesar Romo, the city’s signal operations supervisor.

Every city in the nation will have to comply with those new regulations by 2014, so Santa Clarita officials elected to do it now, Romo said.

About $380,000 for re-time 131 signals across the city comes from a $2.2 million grant, Romo said.

“It’s all the major intersections in the city, pretty much,” he said.

Synchronizing the signals is about half complete, he said. Already signals on the east side of town, including those along Soledad and Whites canyon roads, Sierra Highway and Via Princessa, have been re-timed.

Now the city is shifting its attention to the west side corridors such as McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard with hopes of completing the process in July.

The primary goal of signal synchronization is to decrease the time drivers spend in traffic on a specific road segment, according to Yi.

“Less travel means less pollution and less complaints from people,” Yi said.

To re-time a signal, city traffic engineers study an intersection throughout the day to get an idea of the traffic flow in the area.

Then they create a simulation of the intersection to examine what effect different signal patterns would have on it.

“It’s not one size fits all,” Yi said of the intersections. “They’re all different.”

The city reexamines and updates its signal timing about once every three years, Yi said.

Partly this is because signals can naturally fall out of synchronization as time passes, Romo said. But new road construction also plays a role.

“Our traffic is very dynamic since we’re still building a lot of roadways,” Yi said.

Some of those major projects include the widening of McBean Parkway over the Santa Clara River, extending Dockweiler Drive to meet with Lyons Avenue and extending Via Princessa from Isabella Parkway to Golden Valley Road.

“It’s a balancing act to maximize the system,” Yi said.

Traffic engineers like Romo and Yi can monitor Santa Clarita’s entire traffic system from one room in City Hall.
With a system that is centralized and computerized, Romo said he can quickly analyze any issues that arise at intersections and determine if it is an issue that can be fixed from City Hall, or if a maintenance crew is needed.

Part of the job is also taking calls and concerns, though Romo said the city does not receive regular complaints about any one intersection in particular.

“We have calls all the time,” Romo said. “But sometimes you just have to explain how things work to people.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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