More advanced traffic lights could be coming to U.S. 29 corridor

Albemarle County supervisors are hopeful that creating an integrated traffic signal network for the U.S. 29 corridor could dramatically reduce congestion, despite concerns from the Virginia Department of Transportation that the technology may not work in that location.

“The effectiveness of our adaptive systems is going to be limited if your intersections are over-saturated,” said Mike Clements, a traffic engineer who works in VDOT’s central office in Richmond. “If you have a corridor or an intersection that is just maxed out, you’re not going to see a benefit during the peak hours.”
Earlier this month, Clements briefed members of the Planning and Coordination Council on the results of a pilot project VDOT is conducting throughout the state using Rhythm Engineering’s InSync package of hardware and software.
The planning council consists of elected officials from Albemarle and Charlottesville, as well as top leaders from the University of Virginia.
“We currently have 13 corridors in the state that we’re looking at [adaptive technology], and we’re in the evaluation period to get a good feel for how the technology can work for us,” said 
Joel DeNunzio, the administrator of VDOT’s Charlottesville Residency.
VDOT installed InSync ‘s cameras software in November 2011 on U.S. 250 on Pantops. Cameras were installed between the road’s intersection with Interstate 64 in Albemarle, and at the intersection with High Street inside Charlottesville city limits. Other cameras were installed on side streets, for a total of eight integrated intersections.
“The benefit of the technology is that it takes our existing corridors and it tries to get the most efficient use of our timing,” DeNunzio said. “It’s called ‘adaptive’ because it can react to the actual real-time traffic conditions.”
After a year of operations, VDOT has recorded some success at Pantops.
“The number of stops have been reduced about 64 percent,” Clements said. “ Typically, you’re stopping on average about five fewer times.”
“I’ve noticed a tremendous difference,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker, who has been asking to have the technology installed on the U.S. 29 corridor. Earlier this month, the Board of 
Supervisors agreed to use VDOT revenue-sharing money to pay for a portion of the system.
DeNunzio said Pantops was chosen for the pilot program because of the relatively low number of intersections where the technology is installed. He said one concern about U.S. 29 is the 
number of intersections that would need to be involved.
“The installation on U.S. 29 would probably require somewhere around 23 to 25 signals to be integrated, and our concern with that is that it’s larger than any other program we have right now,” DeNunzio said. He added that high-traffic volumes on Rio and Hydraulic roads could overwhelm the system.
Despite the concerns, Rooker said he wanted VDOT to think about how such a system might work. He added that Rhythm Engineering has quoted him a price of $33,000 per intersection.
“We think we’ll have the money this coming year because we expect we’ll get the VDOT revenue-sharing match,” Rooker said.