FOLEY - The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is preparing to begin a synchronization project on Foley traffic lights along Highway 59. The work will be part of ALDOT’s RTOP (Regional …
FOLEY - The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is preparing to begin a synchronization project on Foley traffic lights along Highway 59. The work will be part of ALDOT’s RTOP (Regional Traffic Operations Program.) After the new technology is installed, motorists can expect to find more traffic signals synchronized to be green simultaneously, allowing for improved traffic flow. These improvements will contribute to reduced wrecks, quicker evacuations during emergency situations, more consistency, less fuel used and less pollution.
The Foley project is projected to begin during May with hopes for completion set by the end of June. Currently the Loxley corridor and Eastern Shore municipalities have received the upgraded technology.
“Short term goal is to get all of Foley updated with cellular modems into each traffic signal along Highway 59, and we’ll start seeing some changes for the summer traffic patterns,” said TSMO Engineer Daniel Driskell. “Then longer-range goal is to have the whole 59 corridor to I-65 in Bay Minette updated, so we’ll have the whole corridor done within 12 months.”
Driskell said the projected timeline for the project is fluid and will be affected by weather and availability of resources, including people and materials. The funding for the project is in place.
“The cellular modems provide a network, so we’ve got a central server located in our office that communicates to all the cellular modems and we use that to connect all the signals together,” Driskell said. “Last year, we were sending personnel out into the field to make the traffic signal adjustments and they’d have to stay all day when it happened, whether it was for hurricane evacuations or a bad wreck on I-10 that diverted into Loxley or Daphne. Now that the modems are in I’ve got one guy at a computer who is able to communicate with all the signals.”
The signals can be adjusted from the computer, making it quick and easy to change signals as needed. Previously, ALDOT used fiber optic cables that ran from traffic signal to traffic signal, eventually running to the ALDOT offices. Driskell said the department didn’t always have funding for the expensive process, whereas the new cellular modems offer the same network for a tenth of the cost.
“Recently we’ve updated signals along the Highway 90 & Tillmans Corner corridor in Mobile, and what we’ve seen is about a 50 percent reduction in travel time,” said Driskell. “When you’re talking about going from 14 minutes to six or seven, that’s big, it’s getting a lot of time back in your day. Now when we talk about peak travel times, this isn’t going to eliminate congestion. It’s going to move the needle less during those travel times because you’re overcome with volume, but in the nonpeak times is when you’ll see the most benefit. It will still make a different in peak times, but it’ll be less.”
Over the next three years, Driskell says plans are in place to upgrade traffic signals throughout multiple counties, including Baldwin, Mobile, Escambia, and Conecuh. With the upgrade, his department will easily be able to monitor and communicate with traffic signals throughout its footprint.
Along with the synchronization project, multiple intersections within Foley will see upgraded mast arm poles going up sometime within a year’s time. These include the intersections at County Road 10 and Highway 59, County Road 12 and Highway 59, and the Foley Beach Express and Highway 59.
“This will make us more resilient during hurricane season, because the lights that hang can easily get knocked down and things like that,” said Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich. “We’ve been working really hard on traffic because of growth in the community, we know everyone is worried about traffic. It’s an important issue, and we’re working to make Highway 59 more efficient … This is really like getting new highways when you make yours more efficient.”
For more information, check out www.dot.state.al.us.