Local News

'Obsolete' Traffic Lights to Get Overhaul in Chapel Hill, Carborro

Posted September 17, 2007 8:36 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2007 11:27 p.m. EDT

— Drivers complain that traffic lights in Chapel Hill and Carborro are outdated and out-of-sync, but an overhaul by the state will give the two towns state-of-the-art signal systems.

All 112 traffic lights in the two towns will be overhauled, replaced and hooked into a central computer system in a five-year, $5 million upgrade.

The towns' signal systems haven't received any major work in about 15 years, leaving them "functionally obsolete," Department of Transportation engineer Greg Fuller said.

"I think it's about time they did it," driver Halimat Alli-Balogun said. "I mean, it's kind of difficult if you're coming to a stoplight and you're sitting there for five or 10 minutes, because, I believe, there's sensors.

"So I think it's about time they actually changed the system," she added.

Forty miles of fiber-optic cable will be laid to bring all the traffic lights into a central computer bank that will synchronize the lights. State traffic engineers said that system will help keep traffic moving during major events, including Tar Heels basketball games at the Dean Smith Center.

"The system will have the capability so you can do timing plans and bring people into the coliseum, and then when the game's over, we can implement a new timing plan and flush them out," Fuller said.

Engineers will spend two years designing the system, which will take another three years to install. The new system should be in place by January 2012.

The price tag will be split among the state, Chapel Hill, Carborro and the federal government.

Elsewhere in central North Carolina, DOT crews are working on upgrades to Raleigh's traffic lights, and engineers will soon design a new light system for Rocky Mount.