New heat sensors part of plan to ease Farrington Highway gridlock

New heat sensors part of plan to ease Farrington Highway gridlock

NANAKULI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new thermal sensor controls the green left turn arrow from Farrington Highway onto Nanakuli Avenue.

"We needed some sensor out there that we could keep the flow going," said Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation's Highways Division.

The smart device detects heat from cars stopped to turn left, sends the signal to a control panel, and triggers the light sequence for the green arrow. Thermal sensors were installed at Nanakuli and Haleakala Avenues, two of the busiest intersections for left turn traffic heading out of the Leeward Coast.

"With all of these schools coming up on the mountain and so many people going up, whether it's to drop off your child or to go to sports or to go to after school activities, the amount of people trying to get up the valley is a lot," said state Rep. Andria Tupola, who represents the area.

Sniffen said the sensors alone have helped move traffic along  By the end of the year, Nanakuli and Haleakala avenues and Helelua Street will have separate left turn lanes and all three intersections will have traffic cameras tied into the traffic control center.

"When we see the turning movements that are necessary, when we see the volume that we need to adjust right away we can do it," Sniffen said.

The traffic sensors cost $20,000 per intersection.  Federal money paid eighty percent. The above-ground system should be more durable than ground sensors.

"With this system we can do it from the control center, and in real time instead of having to send somebody out there," city Department of Transportation acting director Mark Kikuchi said.

"Every time you repave the road traditionally, you dig it out, it gets inactive until you put back the loop detectors," Kikuchi said.

Sniffen added that the heat sensors would ultimately save taxpayers money.

He estimates 50,000 vehicles per day travel on Farrington Highway.

Tupola said Leeward Coast drivers need these measures to loosen the gridlock on Farrington Highway during peak traffic times. "People just want to hit it to work and it's almost impossible through that corridor," she said.

Thermal sensors use infrared technology. Transportation officials said they don't pose any health danger to drivers.

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