Transportation officials respond to criticism about traffic light timing in Pearl City

Transportation officials respond to criticism about traffic light timing in Pearl City

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Among the many frustrations Pearl City and Aiea motorists are enduring on the roadways, perhaps one of the most mind-numbing is the timing of the traffic lights along Kamehameha Highway.

"I don't know why they don't synchronize it better?" asked one frustrated driver.

City transportation officials say they have already cut down a lot of the backlog. Michael Formby, the city's transportation director, says part of the problem is that the current system relies on traffic studies that were conducted before numerous road construction projects and lane closures even started.

So now, Formby says they are trying to ease some of the congestion by bringing in extra staffing on weekends and during nights.

"We have men up at the Traffic Management Center watching the corridors and when they see excessive queuing then they make adjustments to those preset times," Formby said.

So why not do a new study now?

"It doesn't man a lot of sense to do a signal optimization study when you have a lot of construction activity that's moving down the roadway because it's not a predictable environment," Formby said.

Transportation engineer and UH professor Panos Prevedourus says the city should have predicted some of these problems.

"We have the cases now where the rail or other big projects are in construction and we have sudden changes of lanes. That takes the lights out of whack, but the people responsible for it should be very quick to adjust to the situations we have on hand," Prevedouros said.

Formby says they're considering a new method called "adaptive signal technology." He says it's a computer-based system that monitors the presence of cars, the activity of cars, and then it automatically adjusts the timing of the lights, 24/7. He says it's something the city has never done before.

"You get to the point where you're saying it makes sense to have some sort of automative system in...versus people always manually have to look at what's happening and make adjustments," Formby said.

Formby says other cities have been using that method since 2007 and it has been successful. He says implementing it would mean changes to the existing software and hardware systems and it would cost about $50,000 to $75,000 per intersection. He says they hope to hire a consultant by July to study it and the goal is to have it in effect within six months to a year.

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