by Tricia Kline, PennLive
A new traffic signal technology project aimed at reducing traffic congestion along the Carlisle Pike in Cumberland County, and Route 22 in Dauphin County, could have vehicles rolling faster on the major thoroughfares by late spring or summer 2014.
It also could have vehicles on side streets waiting even longer at red lights.
The $2.2 million project has been proposed by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Engineering District 8 — which also will 100 percent fund and install the new “adaptive traffic signal control” technology.
The new signal control uses real-time traffic information to determine when lights should be red and when they should be green, making the movement of vehicles as smooth as possible.
Eight municipalities to be affected by the new project have been asked to approve it.
In Cumberland County, the involved municipalities are Camp Hill Borough, Silver Spring, Hampden and East Pennsboro townships — a total of 6.4 miles and 27 traffic signals. In Dauphin County, the City of Harrisburg, Penbrook Borough, and Lower Paxton and Susquehanna townships are involved — a total of 6.6 miles and 26 traffic signals.
All have given their consent except for East Pennsboro Township; supervisors are scheduled to vote during their public meeting in July.
Bids for the construction work are scheduled to be opened Aug. 15, and work will likely begin late this winter or early spring.
Greg Penny, community relations coordinator for PennDOT District 8, said it is possible, once the technology is rolling, that drivers approaching an intersection from side roads “may or may not notice a delay.”
While the priority of the system is to better move the mainline traffic, if mainline traffic is heavy, “motorists entering from the side roads may have to wait a little longer to get a green light to enter the intersection,” Penny said.
“We don’t expect a noticeable delay, but it’s possible,” he said.
Drivers also need to be aware that the normal signal sequence will change.
“Drivers may not be able to anticipate the green light as they may have before, because the system will detect a need to clear another leg of the intersection,” Penny said.
PennDOT will take care of any maintenance costs and work on the system for the first five years. After that, each municipality has been asked to pay $750 per intersection per year for parts and technical support, or $250 per intersection per year for just technical support. They also might choose to not pay for either, and instead pay for repairs or technical support as needed.
Camp Hill Borough Council last month approved the project, but expressed concerns including future maintenance costs and asked PennDOT to do all it could to assure them of several requests, including the retention of pedestrian cycles at intersections, that special attention be given to the Routes 11/15 and North 21st Street intersection, and an adequate supply of replacement equipment be supplied.
In Carlisle, officials sought out the software and hardware for the adaptive signal technology two years ago to help reduce vehicle speeds in downtown, along the High and Hanover street corridors.
Prior to installation, there were four lanes of traffic on those streets, two in each direction. Now, there is one travel lane, with dedicated turn lanes.
Michael Keiser, Carlisle public works director, said the technology has increased safety, as cars are forced to travel at slower speeds.
“It’s slower and calmer under this configuration,” he said, adding that there were people who hated it in the beginning. But those who supported less noise and less traffic loved it.
He did say that the technology does require drivers to wait longer at traffic lights during peak travel times.