Traffic signal improvements coming to Sevier County

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– In a few months, the traffic lights in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge along the Parkway will have improvements.

Cannon and Cannon Inc. has been partnering with the city of Sevierville and the city of Pigeon Forge for the past couple of years.

Houston Daugherty, President and CEO of the engineering company, said the project is to essentially get all the traffic signals on the Parkway– starting at the 407 exit and ending at the Spur– to cooperate.

“(The traffic lights) will communicate through a central system, so as that central system being to recognize that traffic volumes are picking up, there will be pre-set thresholds that we are automating, currently,

“Each signal will be communicating through a central system in order to implement timing plans that are based on thresholds that are pre-established,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty said the system will recognize when the traffic volumes are picking up, and they’ll do so through what’s called the traffic responsive system.

“What we want to be able to tell the traffic signals is this is what you’re timing needs to be, your green time, to let either into town or out of town depending on where the largest volume is,” Daugherty said.

He said the system will be using video detection to track the traffic volume.

“We’re using a lot of video detection, that then goes to the traffic detectors, and then communicates back to the central system,” Daugherty said.

He said the traffic light system will be a lot more technologically advanced than the system that’s in place now.

Daugherty said right now, the traffic lights are using a fixed based progression timing, with limited technology capabilities.

“The signals are somewhat coordinated, arguably, now, to the best extent possible. But, it’s on fixed timing. So that drifts over time. You can put it in the best timing plan in the world, but then not maintained and then it will drift. And that’s become the challenge about the age of the equipment,” Daugherty said.

Daughter said new equipment is being installed, and it’s going to be able to hold it’s time clock a lot better.

He said the technology will be create one of the most advanced lighting systems in the state.

Their goal is to make the drive as smooth as possible heading into, and leaving town.

“How much green time can we give each driver? Because that’s what everyone wants as a driver, is a green signal. So we’re trying to optimize that,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty didn’t want to give drivers false hope. They will notice a change, but it won’t be super obvious.

“You’re not going to see a reduction in the number of vehicles of course, and we don’t want that as a region. Drivers along that corridor, what they’ll notice is maybe they’ll get through more green signals,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty said he expects the construction to be completed by late summer, early fall.

He said drivers won’t actually be impacted by the construction, because his crews won’t need to block off any lanes for the work.

Bob Stahlke, the Sevierville spokesperson, said the majority of the funding for the traffic light improvements comes from the federal government.

This is how he broke down the payment:

Total Cost: $4,512,292.00

  • Federal Share: $4,121,366.20
  • State Share: $112,311.40
  • Local Match: $278,614.40 (split evenly between Sevierville and Pigeon Forge)
    • This includes both the 10% cost of ADA items (same value as State Share) AND the expected cost of project overruns from the construction contract.

On that note, Daugherty said American Disabilities Act improvements will also be made.

Daugherty said his group is also working with the city of Gatlinburg on a mobility study for downtown on the Parkway.

The city spokesperson said the study will examine six intersections in the downtown corridor along Parkway and three more on River Road.

“Since the economic reopening during the pandemic last year, the City has experienced unprecedented traffic volumes. With the compact, geographic nature of town that doesn’t allow for roadway expansion, Gatlinburg is seeking to find any ways that can help manage vehicular and pedestrian traffic flows in order to maintain a positive visitor experience,” Seth Butler said.

Daugherty said his group will determine how the city can better manage pedestrian and vehicle traffic, since downtown Gatlinburg is packed with both.

Butler said the cost for the study is about $91,500.

The study is in the very early stages, but once completed, Cannon and Cannon’s findings and recommendations will be presented to city officials.

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