New light system to address 280 traffic

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

The timing of lights on Highway 280 will soon allow for traffic to flow with less congestion.

A new traffic signal system will use surveillance cameras to read traffic volume and monitor the traffic flow.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is now completing plans for this Adaptive Control System with hopes to implement it this fall.

“ALDOT is still looking at an elevated highway plan, but that would be 10 years down the road,” said ALDOT Division Engineer Brian Davis. “We have to do something to get 280 more passable now, and we know this is the best thing to do for today and tomorrow and next month. I think this [Adaptive Control System] is the most innovative signal system there is.”

“We don’t always have to choose the first sexy choice for it to be a good choice,” said Greg Wingo, public affairs officer at the Regional Planning Commission. “We have to find the best way to move people from point A to point B.”

The current light system works on a predetermined timing plan, with several plans for different times of the day or for special events. Davis said this system works at 99.9 percent of locations, but is not best for Highway 280.

Instead of a predetermined plan, the new Adaptive Control System will constantly be changing according to the existing traffic.

“The advantage is it lets you have hundreds of possibilities that are adjusting all day long,” Davis said.

With the new system, some side streets will have less green time. “To fix the real problem, we have to give more green time to 280,” Davis said. “It’s a fine balancing act. We hope that those on side streets don’t feel tremendous impact.”

Wingo noted that the cameras will only be used for traffic control, not for any police monitoring.

Federal and state funds are in place for the light project as a part of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) through the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.

Wingo and Davis both believe this system will improve traffic flow along the corridor.

“I hope it will be a tremendous improvement,” Davis said. “Highway 280 is a very unique animal. It’s so different at different times of the day, so I think a system that reads the demand all day and adjusts itself all day is the right system.”

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