The city continued its efforts last week to coordinate traffic signals along key corridors to create "green bands" that will allow traffic to flow more smoothly without frequent stoppages.
City staff worked with consultants last week to continue implementing coordinated timings along six corridors — Donahue Drive, South College Street, Gay Street, Dean Road, Opelika Road and East University Drive, said traffic engineer Brandy Ezelle.
"We’ve only got a couple left to do the implementation on," she said. "We do still have some fine-tuning to do, and the consultant will be back in town next week to work on some of that."
The city worked with Skipper Consulting and Alta Planning and Design to conduct a citywide traffic study, which was completed in the spring and recommended a number of actions, including coordinating the timing for traffic signals on key corridors as well as investing $25.8 million on improvement projects over the next decade.
Earlier in the spring, the city coordinated traffic signals along Dean Road, which showed that the average speed of vehicles traveling in both directions was higher and that cars were experiencing fewer stops, The Villager reported in May.
Ezelle said the city is seeing positive results so far from the recent round of implementation.
"Visually, we’re seeing positive results. Again, we still have some tweaking to do. We’ve done before-studies; we will be doing after-studies," she said, adding that the goal is to complete implementation by the end of November.
While the city is syncing traffic signals on South College Street from I-85 to Woodfield Drive, there are no plans to coordinate traffic on North College Street because of the difficulties posed by pedestrian traffic and on-street parking.
"The downtown part of College Street with all of the pedestrian movement and the on-street parking and that sort of thing, it doesn’t function well enough, there’s too many interruptions to have that continuous green band," said Ezelle. "If you get traffic moving and all of the sudden somebody wants to park, they stop, somebody backs out, they pull ahead and all of those cars in what we call a platoon ahead of them are now broken from the group.
"When they stop to allow somebody to do a parking maneuver, then the traffic signal doesn’t know that. It just knows that there’s no more traffic coming through, and so it confuses the traffic signal. The traffic signal doesn’t realize what’s going on and doesn’t function as optimally as if there were no on-street parking."
While there won't be a "green band" on North College, the city is looking at the timing of all the traffic signals in the city.
"We will be looking at timing adjustments for all other intersections," said Ezelle, who added that most of that work will start next week and be completed by the end of October.
The city has also created a "traffic control center" that will allow city employees to observe intersections from the office without having to be on-site.
"We can observe multiple intersections at a time as opposed to just one intersection," said Ezelle. "As I speak, I’ve got one intersection showing up in conflict flash. It’ll show up that way. Even when a technician is out there working, if they temporarily put it into flash working on it, that pops up and we can see that. It also sends an immediate alert to the technicians that an intersection has gone into flash or the power has failed at that intersection and so will other deficiencies that need to be addressed."
The city plans to release more information about its efforts to the public in the coming weeks, added Ezelle.