Emmet Street approaching the University of Virginia Credit: Credit: Andrew Shurtleff, Charlottesville Stock Photography

An adaptive traffic management system currently in use at key intersections on U.S. 250 on Pantops may soon be added to the U.S. 29 corridor, spanning from Airport Road to Arlington Boulevard.

One Albemarle supervisor wants Charlottesville to make sure the system works by getting the city involved in the planning stages. U.S. 29 crosses into Charlottesville at Hydraulic Road.

“Obviously, a system which incorporated both [sides] of Route 29, I think, would operate in a superior way to a system which stops at the county line,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.

Last week, officials from Charlottesville, Albemarle and the Virginia Department of Transportation attended a briefing on the InSync Adaptive Traffic Management System.

The product from Rhythm Engineering uses cameras and hardware at every intersection to optimize traffic signals on primary roads and side streets in real time.

Each intersection communicates with adjacent ones, resulting in the system directing the flow of traffic efficiently under changing conditions. Cooperation across jurisdictions will be necessary in order for it to work on U.S. 29.

“I love it when local cities, counties and states work closely together,” said Mark Sullivant, the Southeast Regional Manager for Rhythm Engineering. “I think it’s a really good thing, and I know it doesn’t always go that way, but it’s nice to see it.”

Sullivant said that each intersection would cost $30,000 for their hardware, with an additional $5,000 to cover communications equipment and installation costs.

Angela Tucker, development services manager for the city, estimated 13 intersections within the city would be equipped with the technology. Rooker followed suit and said more than 20 signals would be equipped within the county.

While the exact number of signals is not yet known, a 27-signal system might cost about $945,000.

The system would need to be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation. At the briefing, Rooker said Albemarle had applied for more than $1 million in revenue-sharing funds from VDOT to pay for the project.

During its meeting last week, Charlottesville‘s City Council discussed the InSync system and had a preliminary discussion on how to pay for it.

The city might be asked to fund installations at intersections of U.S. 29 and Emmet Street down to either Arlington Boulevard or Ivy Road, as well as the Hydraulic Road intersection.

“I don’t know where we would find $500,000 just kind of randomly in a budget we have already approved for the year,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos.

Despite the budgetary reservations, councilors expressed interest in the idea and also cited the need for further analysis of the overall impacts along the U.S. 29 corridor.

“I’m very interested in the idea,” said Szakos. “I think it would help businesses along there, I think it would help residents.”

Councilor Kathy Galvin asked staff to study the positive impacts on business.

“It’s only anecdotal right now,” she said.

“I would be hesitant to try to make a decision about it at our next meeting or anytime soon without any sort of idea about where that money would come from,” Galvin added.

Rooker noted at the briefing that VDOT and the city can spend much greater sums on simple sidewalk and utility relocation projects, but those projects would not move as many people.

“We just finished Georgetown Road and that was a $3 million project for about a mile of new sidewalk,” Rooker said. “So, when you look at the comparison, we’re talking about a system that can do so many things for the movement of traffic in comparison to the cost that we incur elsewhere for very small projects.”

One councilor said the money could be well spent.

“I’m probably preaching to the choir here but it’s a shame, because these are exactly the kinds of things we should be doing instead of spending $300 million on a new bypass,” Councilor Dave Norris said, referring to the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.