August 17, 2012
By Eric Bracke and Larry Hass, Guest Columnists
Greeley drivers may have noticed recently that traveling on U.S. 34 Business (10th Street) between 23rd Avenue and 59th Avenue has been a bit easier of late. Yet no highways were uprooted, no lanes were added, and nothing really seemed to change. Curious how this is possible? Let us introduce you to adaptive traffic signals.
This past April, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the city of Greeley installed a new adaptive traffic system after years of trying to efficiently time this complicated corridor. We tried a new technology since we didn’t have the means to reconstruct the roadway, and we wanted to improve the traffic flow and ease traffic for commuters who spent roughly 10 minutes going through this stretch of highway, usually stopping several times along the way. As part of the joint effort, state and federal dollars were used, as well as hundreds of man hours provided by city staff in lieu of city of Greeley funding.
Here’s how the technology works: The adaptive traffic signals [InSync from Rhythm Engineering -RE] use real-time data collected by sensors to create a “green tunnel” for drivers moving through the corridor. Unlike traditional signal timing systems which set a predetermined pace for the flow of traffic, this new technology allows signals to communicate with each other by notifying each other of approaching traffic so lights turn green before motorists arrive at the intersection. As you have driven down US 34 Business, you have probably noticed that you get stopped at fewer red lights and you are able to travel at a more constant rate of speed.
The adaptive traffic signal control system has already proven to have many benefits for the city of Greeley as a whole, as well as for individual motorists. Individual drivers have experienced a decrease in the amount of time it takes them to drive through the corridor, having gone from a 10 minute drive to between an eight and five minute drive, have been stopped half as often during optimal conditions, have experienced faster speeds through the area, and have saved 4 percent on fuel consumption. The city has benefited from the smoother traffic flows, fewer emissions put into the air, potentially fewer accidents, and with the annual savings expected to be $1.3 million a year, the system pays for itself in a matter of months.
As Greeley continues to grow and develop into an important economic hub in northern Colorado, this cutting-edge traffic signal technology will hopefully make life a little easier for citizens who commute via 10th Street every day, the students who study nearby, and visitors who want to explore what Greeley has to offer.
Eric L. Bracke, city of Greeley traffic engineer and Larry J. Haas, CDOT traffic operations engineer