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Traffic Light Upgrade Could Make Driving Easier In Raleigh

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Motorists know the scenario: waiting at a traffic light -- and its either too long, or too short.

Synchronizing stoplights is not easy, but Raleigh traffic engineers have a new way to keep an eye on every intersection with a "point" and a "click" system that is improving traffic.

"Green light comes on, then before you know it, boom, the red light is on, and you haven't even gone anywhere," said Nemi Fiabema, a motorist who finds the timing of lights a problem in Raleigh.

Traffic engineers say it'll never be perfect, but they can make the drive smoother with a $450,000 traffic signal computer system.

Technicians work out of a control center on Hargett Street where Raleigh's 435 traffic lights feed in color-coded traffic flow data.

At the busiest intersections, such as those surrounding Crabtree Valley Mall, the computer data are supplemented by traffic cameras.

If traffic gets backed up on certain roads where they have cameras, technicians downtown can now react to it quickly and easily.

"That's the whole idea with the new surveillance cameras: You can monitor a situation ... notice a back-up, make a change from here, and affect the one intersection. The rest of the city never sees the timing change," said Mike Kennon, a Raleigh traffic engineer.

Under the old system, to change one light, engineers had to reboot the whole system, sometimes causing glitches citywide.

Now they can change the timing on one traffic light, or a series of lights, with a point and a click.

The recent computer upgrade is a building block for Raleigh's number one traffic request from the state: A $23 million traffic-light synchronization project, which would take several years to complete.


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