Local News

Stoplight Project May Speed Up Durham Traffic

Posted December 28, 2005

— BLURB: They save time, money and help air quality. Durham will soon get a major stoplight synchronization program. So why won't Raleigh?

Triangle drivers say there's too much red, and not enough green. Traffic lights that don't work together, that are not in sync, are very upsetting to Durham driver Emma Riddick.

"Some lights you're here and the light's, when you get to it, it's red," said Riddick. "Then it changes, then the next block it turns red again, and that's silly."

Engineers say that's going to change. Durham is about to sign on for a $15 million signal synchronization system.

"We'll be able to sit right here in this office and we'll be able to make changes to those signals from the control system," said transportation engineer Larry McGlothlin.

Silver cabinets that are popping up all over Durham are the brains of the new signal system. Information gathered there is sent back to the control center. The work of building the boxes and burying fiber optic cable is now done. Now it's on to programming the system into a central computer.

"When this project is complete, we will be just a little bit more advanced than Raleigh is at this time," said McGlothlin. "But their turn will come in the near future, and then theirs will probably be a little bit better than ours."

Durham engineers said timing and size put them a cycle ahead of Raleigh in synchronizing lights. The Bull City put its traffic light upgrade out to bid in 1997, when the DOT had more money for signal projects.

Durham has 350 lights to coordinate, while Raleigh is trying to link over 600. The result: Durham should be synced by May. Raleigh is four to five years away.

No system is perfect, and some drivers will still think they see too much red. But Durham will soon have the Triangle's most advanced signal light system.

The DOT has agreed to pay 75 percent of Raleigh's signal system upgrade. A bond issue will pay the rest. Engineers say they'll need two years to design the Raleigh system and about three more to install it.

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