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Bob Kellar: Live from City Hall

Posted: May 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.


f you find you are getting across town with a little more ease these days, it isn’t by chance. Commuters along Soledad Canyon are now enjoying a 10 to 15 percent improvement in travel time as a result of recent traffic signal synchronization updates by city traffic engineers.


And by July, more than 100 signals at major intersections in the city will be updated to improve traffic flow and to meet new Department of Transportation guidelines.


The goal of traffic signal synchronization is to decrease the time drivers spend in traffic. However, synchronized signals also help reduce stress and decrease pollution.


In order to coordinate the signals and their efficiency, city traffic engineers study intersections throughout the day and monitor traffic flow to understand volume and traffic patterns.


They then create a simulation of the intersection to see what effect different signal patterns will have on each intersection.


Once that’s complete the engineers can program intersections to allow groups of cars to flow along a corridor together with minimal, if any, stops along the way.


But no two signals or intersections are alike, and each must be studied and programmed to meet demands.


It’s a time-consuming process, but one that city traffic engineers do at least once every three years to accommodate for signals that fall out of synchronization as traffic patterns change due to new roadways and growth in the city.


As an example, the completion of the Cross Valley Connector has significantly changed traffic patterns in the city.


Traffic in Santa Clarita is ever-changing, as are national traffic guidelines and requirements.


A few months ago the Department of Transportation released new timing guidelines for cities across the nation in its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which extended the time required to allow pedestrians to cross an intersection.


The former guideline gave pedestrians four feet per second to cross an intersection.


The new requirement is three and a half feet per second, depending on the width of an intersection.


This can increase the amount of time a pedestrian has to cross an intersection by about five to seven seconds.


Cities nationwide are required to comply with the new guidelines by 2014, but the city of Santa Clarita will be compliant in just a few months from now.


In fact, all signals on the east side of town are updated and those on the west side will be completed in just a few months’ time.


In addition to regular updates to signal synchronization, city traffic engineers have completed a variety of projects to improve traffic management in Santa Clarita as a result of a $2.2 million dollar grant from Metro’s Call for Projects program.


These improvements have included installation of closed-circuit television cameras, installation of permanent detection stations (which monitor volume and speed), new fiber-optic communication lines that create a ring connecting Santa Clarita’s core intersections, as well as the signal coordination timing for more than 130 intersections and all major corridors.


Signal synchronization is one of the biggest ways the city keeps traffic moving, but the new fiber-optic lines are equally important.


These lines support a centralized and computerized system that allows traffic engineers to monitor intersections from city hall and make real-time adjustments to address issues without leaving the building, which saves everyone time and money.


So the next time you are heading across town, take note of your commute time, because chances are it’s a little quicker and hopefully more enjoyable.


Bob Kellar is mayor of the city of Santa Clarita.



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