‘Smart’ Traffic Signals May Ease Traffic Backups

By John A. Gavin

NORTH ARLINGTON, N.J. (AP) – Within a two-mile radius of where Schuyler Avenue and Belleville Turnpike intersect in North Arlington, drivers confront day-to-day traffic backups at stop lights and road-construction projects on roads built before World War II.

With bends and single-lane stretches, they are among the region’s busiest roadways, passing industrial zones, strip malls and apartments, leaving little room for widening or straightening to ease congestion.

To improve flow, Meadowlands region officials are turning to a new sort of traffic signal that can sense traffic jams, communicate with other “smart” traffic lights and automatically clear up congestion.

The project – called Meadowlands Adaptive Signal System for Traffic Reduction – an innovative network that includes cameras, computerized radios and sensors that will adjust the timing of traffic signals – began construction last year in Secaucus.

Once the system is up and running, it should cut travel time on historically congested roads and save on fuel consumption.

“What this system does is optimize the signal timing at every signal all day long, every day,” David Liebgold, the Meadowland Commission’s chief of transportation, told The Record of Woodland Park. “So if there are any changes in traffic flow, such as an increase in one direction but not the other, the signal can automatically adjust its timing and provide more green time where the demand is.”

Passaic County planning officials said no plans for upgrading to smart signals are yet on the horizon for county roads. Major highways are under state jurisdiction, but officials with the state transportation department could not be reached for comment.

Construction is in four stages, including a command control center staffed by transportation engineers. The project is expected to be completed by December 2013, Liebgold said.

Last month, Phase II, which includes North Arlington, Kearny and Lyndhurst, began at the Schuyler Avenue- Belleville Turnpike intersection, where traffic often bottlenecks in all directions.

As workers installed cameras on traffic lights, signal software in traffic cabinets and wireless communications devices on poles, Liebgold said signal lights will “literally talk to each other” helping to eliminate unnecessary long waits at lights that snarl traffic flow.

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