Upgrades in Knoxville traffic lights could help cut drive time

Technology upgrades in Knoxville traffic lights may improve traffic flow

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By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - We're learning what a new traffic management system would mean to the city of Knoxville. Mayor Madeline Rogero included funding for it in her budget proposal released last week. The idea drew a round of applause from the crowd.

According to city engineers traffic can back up in Knoxville more than it should because of outdated technology in the traffic lights. The city's engineer compared these traffic lights to 15 year old PC's not connected to the internet, but the city is in the early stages of improving the lights to improve traffic flow to cut down on your drive time.

Juniper Stinnett lives in Knoxville. She says driving through the city can sometimes be a headache.

"I feel like the lights could have been engineered better-- that's just my observation it gets clogged up and slow often," said Stinnett.

To improve the traffic flow the city of Knoxville has applied for a federal matching grant to update the traffic lights. Knoxville's Director of Engineering Jim Hagerman says replacing the 15 year old lights would benefit all who drive through the city.

"It will cut down commute time, cut down on air quality impacts of people sitting and idling, cut down fuel consumption and cut down frustration," said Hagerman.

The new traffic lights would communicate with each other for improved traffic flow. Also if any issue is detected a signal would be sent to the central office reducing the repair response time. But Knoxville driver Derek Spratley says motion detectors at the lights also need an upgrade.

"It is frustrating somewhat to sit at lights when there's no traffic coming," said Spratley.

Hagerman says under the plan many lights would be controlled by video or radar sensors. Those devices are more accurate than the underground motion sensors used today.

He says the project will cost the city $500,000 a year for the next six years. The federal government will provide $2 million a year through a road improvements grant. The grant still has to go through final design approvals but Hagerman says it is almost certain the project will go forward as long as the federal government doesn't make a surprise cut to the funding. It's a cost many drivers see as an investment.

"With the stop and go traffic flow I'm sure that's harder on your gas so it seems like a very positive thing to me," said Spratley.

This fiscal year the design and technology approvals would be finalized. Hardware would go in improving traffic flow by July of next year.

The grant funding is scheduled to start at the beginning of this fiscal year. If approved major corridors like Kingston Pike would be updated first.

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