Using technology to make traffic flow easier - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Using technology to make traffic flow easier

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Dubuque (KWWL) -- Monday night, the Dubuque City Council will vote on whether to give the green light for a $400,000 contract to improve the flow of downtown traffic. This project is to add new technology to stop lights on Locust Street and Central Avenue. Engineers say that will help link signals together and allow engineers to easily change the patterns if traffic changes unusually.

Lights are timed out by the time of day, and some, are grouped and synced up. For example, nine lights on Dodge Street (US-20) are set in ten different patterns depending on time of day and the type of drivers on the road (morning commuters drive differently than tourists).

Even with those plans, traffic's still not perfect.

"We're dealing with an extremely old infrastruction, especially in the downtown area," Civil Engineer David Ness said.

Traffic signals usually have a ten year "life expectancy", but some of Dubuque's lights are around 30 years old.

Also, the city has around five sets of interconnected lights (like on US-20), but they aren't linked to eachother. To help, the city recently bought software to tie all city signals together.

"Basically, that will be one system that will run all of these corridors. And it can manage multiple corridors independently and it's also let you cross over these corridors, which we've never been able to do," Ness said.

For example, the US-20 system could be linked to a system on the Northwest Arterial, so you wouldn't sit so long at either light.

The hitch: to control the lights with the system, they need fiberoptic connections. Only 30 of Dubuque's 115 signals currently have fiberoptics. This project will bring five more intersections on board.

The lights at the very busy intersection of Locust and Dodge are set to be updated with the project. Right now, they are timed out so you should get through quickly, but right now if there was a sudden heavy influx of traffic, city engineers would have to physically come to the intersection to change the lights. This project will connect the signal with fiberoptics, and engineers can change the light patterns remotely.

This project is funded through a state clean air grant to keep more traffic moving, so less car emissions are let into the air with starting and stopping.

Ness says the next improvement will likely be working on flow patterns on the Northwest Arterial.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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