The city's current system is 25 years old, overworked, and underequipped. Drivers say sometimes the lights just shut down, and that can be very frustrating.
The new system will use fiber optics, computer controls, and is expandable to meet the needs of a growing city.
Durham Traffic Engineer Ed Sirgany says the new system will also address the growing number of complaints: "'Timing is too short. Timing is too long. I need another five seconds on this side street. Why do we have to wait so long at night? Can we get a left turn arrow for my street?'"
Crews have installed 90 of the 105 miles of fiber optic cable needed. The whole system will be ready by March 2001.
Drivers will see some benefits of the new signal system in a few months. New control boxes are going in at every intersection. From a control room at City Hall, engineers will be able to coordinate signal lights and control traffic flow.
The new system is expensive, but if it helps smooth the ride through the Bull City, drivers think it will be worth every cent.
Durham and theDepartment of Transportationare each putting up $2 million. The federal government is footing the rest of the traffic light bill by kicking in $8 million.