Getting the signal

Vehicles line up at the traffic lights at the intersection of Pelham Road and Francis Street in Jacksonville. An improvement to the traffic regulation system there is expected to be completed by early next year, if not sooner.

In the coming months, drivers on Jacksonville’s main highway can expect to see changes designed to improve traffic flow.

An estimated $1 million project will begin later this week when the Alabama Department of Transportation opens bids for a contractor to install metal posts for technologically enhanced signals along Pelham Road.

“The city has been wanting to do this for a while,” city Administrator Jarrod Simmons said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Currently, all traffic signals along Pelham Road dangle from cables, with the lights inside dating back to the 1970s, he said. The project will replace signals’ incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED lights. The metals arms look better than the cables, officials feel, and signals will be safer on the sturdier posts.

Aesthetics will be one improvement at the intersections, said Jeff Stephenson of Sain Associates, the engineering firm the city consulted with on the project. Efficiency will be another, he explained.

“There’s no communication between the signals right now,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, to keep things synchronized.”

Currently, the lights operate on a clock; they turn green and red after a set time. The new lights will change based on traffic flow detected by the wireless system they operate on.

“Having the right timing is important,” Stephenson said. “It helps when you consider fuel emission and fuel consumption. It just cuts back on delays for people. They’ll get home quicker and safer.”

Simmons said in a phone call Monday that 80 percent of the project’s cost will be funded by the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, with 10 percent being covered by the city. The Department of Transportation — which Simmons said will cover the remaining 10 percent —  estimates the project to cost between $1 million and $1.3 million.

The awarded contractor will have up to six months to begin the project. It will take up to 120 working days to complete, according to the Department of Transportation’s proposal for bids.

The signals will also be equipped with technology that interacts with emergency vehicles. For an estimated $8,000, Simmons said, the city fire department is planning to equip its vehicles to signal the lights to turn red for incoming drivers.

The project will also bring new pedestrian crossing signals at intersections of Francis Street, Mountain Street, University Circle and Alabama 204.

The traffic signal at the intersection of Vann Street will be removed as part of the project; it was found to be unnecessary by Sain Associates’ study for the project.

“Hopefully traffic interruptions will be minimal” during construction, Simmons said.

 

Staff writer Seth Boster: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @SethBoster_Star.

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