ADOT: New traffic-signal tech trims minutes from daily commute between PV and Prescott
Commuters between Prescott Valley and Prescott who find that they have an extra quarter-hour a day of free time can thank a new traffic signal technology on Highway 69.
Over the past several months, new “intelligent transportation” technology in the 20 traffic signals between Prescott Valley and Prescott reportedly has cut the average drive time down from 25 minutes to 17 minutes.
Assuming that commuters are making a daily roundtrip between the two towns, that adds up to a savings of about 16 minutes per day, or about 80 minutes per week.
During a Wednesday, Sept. 18, meeting, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) District Engineer Alvin Stump reported on the progress of the new Intelligent Transportation System to the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), the area’s transportation-planning group.
Noting that interest has long been high for improving the efficiency of the signals, Stump told the CYMPO Board that the work has taken place over the past year and a half.
“We’ve installed the technology on the 20 signals over the 8.7-mile corridor between Prescott Valley and Heather Heights, and basically, we’ve created timing plans that work for the peak travel directions,” Stump said.
That involves one plan for the morning commute from Prescott Valley to Prescott, another for the midday traffic and another for the afternoon/evening peak from Prescott to Prescott Valley.
For peak times, Stump said, the new average drive time is around 17 minutes.
“Before they implemented this, it was around 25 minutes for average travel time,” Stump told the CYMPO Board. “By doing this coordination, it’s been a pretty significant change. I was impressed with what we’ve been able to do. It’s a big win.”
Stump later explained that the process involved acquiring and installing new equipment in the traffic signals, collecting data, and adjusting the signals’ timing.
The new technology was installed in late 2018, and became operation in spring 2019, he said.
Since then, ADOT has received a number of positive comments from local drivers who have noticed more green lights driving to Prescott in the morning, and to Prescott Valley in the afternoon. “I’ve noticed it myself,” Stump said.
Prescott Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr, the chair of the CYMPO Board, congratulated Stump on the significant change. “I think that’s pretty amazing,” she said.
SIDE ROAD IMPACTS
The smoother traffic on the highway does come with an impact for drivers waiting to turn onto the highway from roads that intersect at the 20 stoplights, however.
Because the new technology optimizes the “mainline flows” on Highway 69, Stump said the change likely results in longer wait times on the side roads.
“So some people on the side streets might experience more delay, but once they get on the highway, it’ll work better,” he said.
FIRST STEP OF LARGER PLAN
With the positive results from ADOT, Orr suggested that the technology should also be used on the city’s Willow Creek Road.
Chris Bridges, administrator of CYMPO, responded that local transportation officials are already talking about implementing similar technology on Willow Creek Road and Glassford Hill Road in Prescott Valley.
“It seems to be a relatively affordable approach to make it more efficient with what we have until we can hopefully get some money in the future to add some lanes,” Bridges said, “So we are looking at potentially getting the planning going for that.”
After the meeting, Bridges said, “I’d like to take that to the next step.” He noted that CYMPO has money set aside over the next five years for planning for such projects.
Stump said the cost for the Highway 69 improvements totaled about $10,000 per traffic light, or about $200,000 total.
Bridges said the costs would vary, based on the existing technology.
Along with the possible use of the new technology on other roads in the Prescott/Prescott Valley area, Stump said ADOT is looking at expanding the state improvements to similar sections of road in Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.
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