Albemarle Supervisor Dennis Rooker

Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker is calling on local officials to support a plan to install adaptive traffic control software to reduce congestion on U.S. 29.

“For about $600,000, which is the cost of building less than a thousand feet of sidewalk, we could put a state-of-the-art synchronized system on U.S. 29 covering about 18 different intersections,” Rooker said at a recent meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council.
“We’d better figure out our cheapest and best ways to make our traffic move in that corridor,” Rooker added.
PACC is a forum where Charlottesville, Albemarle and University of Virginia representatives discuss issues of regional planning. Rooker’s comments came at the end of the meeting when members were asked to suggest future topics of consideration.
Last fall, Virginia Department of Transportation engineers installed Rhythm Engineering’s InSync sensors and cameras at key intersections on U.S. 250 in Pantops in order to improve traffic flow.
“The adaptive traffic signal control system installed on the Route 250 corridor on Pantops is part of a statewide pilot project to evaluate this technology,” said Lou Hatter, spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper District. “The Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research at the University of Virginia will complete a full evaluation of the pilot program in the spring of 2013.”
Rhythm’s software analyzes traffic on both the main corridor and side streets in order to “self-optimize” traffic signals using real-time conditions.
“Case studies and other independent studies demonstrate that InSync reduces traffic stops by 60 [percent] to 90 percent, travel times by as much as 50 percent, emissions by at least 30 percent and fuel consumption by at least 20 percent,” reads a white paper co-written by Rhythm engineer Reggie Chandra.
Rooker is trying to get representatives from Rhythm Engineering to travel to the region to brief local officials on the possibility of installing InSync on U.S. 29.
“We’ve got a synchronized system now but what we don’t have is a state-of-the-art system,” Rooker said. “I think that this is something we should push and get done.”
“We would have an interest in hearing about that,” said UVa. Architect David Neuman.
Any decisions on installing the technology could involve coordination with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is housed at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
“In many situations, they can be very effective, but the amount of improvement that is experienced depends on the conditions in the corridor, particularly the amount of traffic on streets that intersect and cross the main roadway,” said Stephen Williams, executive director of the TJPDC.
Rooker said having a system in place before the Western Bypass is under construction would help alleviate snarls related to VDOT’s traffic management plans.
“If you look at the [request for proposals], they have plans to close lanes on Hydraulic Road, Rio Road, Barracks Road, and there are going to be lots of trucks moving around,” Rooker said.
Williams said it is important for officials to consider is that U.S. 29 and U.S. 250 are two different kinds of roads.
“The biggest difference between 29 and 250 is the large number of major cross streets on U.S. 29 that carry a heavy volume of traffic,” Williams said. “Adaptive signal control can still provide a benefit, but to a lesser extent because so much ‘green time’ in the signal phase must go to serve the cross streets.”