City, state seek to improve traffic signal synchronization

City, state to work together to better synchronize traffic signals
Published: Sep. 12, 2016 at 9:01 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 13, 2016 at 2:45 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are about 800 traffic signals on Oahu, and enough driver frustration with them to fill a freeway.

Kaimuki resident Michelle Slentz put it like this: "It's frustrating when you can see the next light is green and then you're stopped and by the time you get to the next light it has turned red."

The city does adjust the timing of green lights during emergencies and tie-ups, but that will happen even faster when city and state traffic management personnel are under the same roof starting next year.

By the middle of 2017, construction will be complete on the city's new, $53.6 million Joint Traffic Management Center on Alapai and South King streets.

And by December of next year, city and state traffic operators are slated to be in the same building, eliminating delays they now face when decisions must be made to extend green lights.

What's done on city streets impacts state highways and vice versa, officials said.

"We can make adjustments to the traffic signals on the city streets and on the state highways very quickly," said Mark Garrity, acting director of the city's Department of Transportation Services. "Generally speaking, you want to give more time, more green time that is, to the main roads so that you can keep that traffic flowing."

As part of the effort to improve light synchronization, all traffic signals will eventually be upgraded and new cameras installed, some in places that presently have no traffic cameras.

"The combination of that will enable us to have more real time control over the traffic signals, to monitor the traffic flow," Garrity said.

Christine Pritchett, of Aiea, is all for the improvements.

"I don't mind sitting in traffic. But if it helps clear congestion, get me home faster, It works," she said.

Police, fire, city Emergency Medical Services and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will have personnel in the new center. Their presence will also speed up decisions on where and when to lengthen green lights when slow traffic has drivers seeing red.

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