Officials take high-tech route to unclogging Bell Road - Your West Valley News: Surprise

Officials take high-tech route to unclogging Bell Road

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Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 9:24 am

Bell Road traffic is no secret.

But the road considered by the Arizona Department of Transportation to be the heaviest-traveled arterial in the entire state is about to get some high-tech help in the effort to cut commute times along the busy thoroughfare.

A new system of regulating traffic signals on three sections — from Cotton Lane in Surprise through 19th Avenue in Phoenix, and along Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in Scottsdale — will rely on real-time conditions at any given time and in any given location, rather than the static, cookie-cutter approach of timing the lights based on the time of day.

“These signals would have ability to detect vehicle volumes and change dynamically,” said Michael Boule, project manager for the city of Surprise’s Department of Public Works. “We’re pretty excited to be a part of this.”

The $2.4 million project will cover a total of 52 signalized intersections — including 20 in Surprise, five in Glendale, four in Peoria and five in Sun City. The remainder are in Phoenix and Scottsdale, along Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, according to Maricopa County Department of Transportation spokeswoman Roberta Bonaski.

The Surprise City Council is expected to approve its portion of the funding during its meeting tonight. Virtually the entire cost — 94.3 percent — will be paid through federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds. The remaining $139,935 will come from local governments. Surprise’s match totals $51,300, Glendale’s $12,825, and Peoria’s $10,260.

Exact figures for the county, Phoenix and Scottsdale were not immediately available.

The entire $318,834 cost for design is being picked up by Maricopa County.

Construction in most instances will be, as Boule described it, “a very non-invasive process.”

In many cases, video-detection equipment already on the signal mast arms and hardware inside the traffic cabinet located next to the intersection will be used to send information to the city’s traffic center.

“It’s combination of using our existing fiber network and existing video-detection and traffic-signal equipment,” he told the council during a presentation last month.

The project will require virtually no right-of-way purchases.

In Surprise, the project will cover intersections from Cotton Lane to the west to the Avenue of the Arts on the east.

In Glendale, signals due for updates include Bell Road at 73rd, 75th, 77th, 79th and 83rd avenues, stated Allan Galicia, the city’s ITS analyst for the intelligent transportation system.

Galicia said the adaptive traffic-control system will be effective in his city because it will address needs based on specific times or portions of the day.

“That portion of Bell Road has a lot of different traffic patterns. In the morning, typically it’s all going to work, primarily heading eastbound. After that, there’s a lot more turning movement, then a completely different pattern for the lunch crowd. During the afternoon peak, it’s all of the above, when commuting is the heaviest. For shoppers, it will adapt changing pattern a lot more quickly. We have five timing plans on Bell Road. It will automatically adapt those changing patterns a lot quicker and not just during the weekday but during weekends, when there are completely different patterns.”

In Peoria, signals will be addressed at 84th, 87th, 91st and 97th avenues, according to Ron Amaya, assistant city traffic engineer.

Bell Road drivers are looking forward to any step that will speed their trip.

Jean Hooley of Surprise said travel time often depends on when a driver hits a red signal. “If you hit one red light, you’re going to hit ’em all. If you don’t hit one, then you may not hit any of them,” she said.

Valeria Gadigian, also of Surprise, said she believes the new system will help similar to the way a signal reacts during late-night or early morning travel, when the roads are nearly empty. “If it’s red and you’re coming up to it, it’ll turn green because there’s no one else waiting and it knows you’re coming,” she said.

Presently in its design phase, the project is scheduled to begin in late 2015 and be wrapped up in early 2016.

Surprise officials hope that will be sooner.

“It would be nice if we could get that done before spring training (2015),” said Vice Mayor Skip Hall.

Galicia said studies before and after activation of the system would measure its effectiveness, but he thinks it will improve traffic flow.

“This system will make significant impact on delays,” he said.

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