Bernalillo County set to expand traffic signal system

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ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Ever notice those tall cameras at the intersections on Alameda? They’ve been around for a couple of years, but you might not know the full story behind them. They’re part of what’s called an adaptive signalling system and they’re gaining traction.

The cameras mounted on intersections along Alameda from 2nd Street to Loretta look back into the intersection much farther than typical sensing cameras and for good reason. They are actually monitoring the number of cars that come through this intersection in real time and you can find them all the way from 2nd and Alameda to Loretta.

“It’s adjusting on the fly without any human input,” said Bernalillo County Operations and Maintenance Director David Mitchell.

Mitchell showed KRQE News 13 exactly how this complex system works. The blue blocks on the monitoring systems measure how many cars are stacking up at an intersection. When the block gets to a certain size, the light changes. While Mitchell can tap into the cameras at any time, he doesn’t have to. The signals operate all on their own.

So, what happens when a pedestrian pushes the walk button or an emergency vehicle makes the light change? Mitchell says the old system would take a while to react, but not the adaptive signals. He says they just rewrite the signal timing plan. That means you could wait ten seconds for the light one time and then a minute and a half the next.

Mitchell says drivers on the side streets see the real savings with adaptive timing. He says roads off of Alameda, like Rio Grande, 2nd and 4th all see shorter wait times.

One difference you might notice with the adaptive system is turning from the left lane. Most of the time, those in a left turn lane go first but that’s not necessarily the case with the adaptive system. The system measures how many left-turners there are and it could let them go first or it might make them wait until after the original green.

Mitchell says the system will also enable the county to respond to incidents on the freeway, for example. When it has to redirect traffic through the city streets, the new system is meant to keep traffic flowing, despite more volume.

The adaptive system has been deemed such a success, you can expect to see it in more corridors around the city.

“The days of building more and more lanes to handle traffic are over. Now, we have to come up with other means and technology to move more traffic through the same number of lanes,” Mitchell said.

Now, Bernalillo County is working with the city to extend the system across the river to four signals on the west side. Plus, Mitchell says they’re planning to install the system on Paseo, Tramway and Rio Bravo. He says the money to pay for it is coming from a federal grant.

Mitchell adds that the state is looking to install the system on Coors and the Department of Transportation plans to install a competing product on US 550 to see how it does.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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