Three weeks ahead of schedule, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has completed the conversion of its 1980 vintage Traffic Signal System that controls the County’s 800 traffic signals. The old system relied on one central computer to control signal timing. Although upgraded over the years, the technology had become obsolete and many of the parts and components were no longer available. This made it increasingly difficult to expand the system as additional traffic signals were installed within the County. The new system has signal controllers at intersections that also can be centrally managed, and the flexibility to allow future upgrades.
“Every day, motorists in our region experience some of the worst gridlock in the nation, but without the County’s active transportation management system, it would be far worse,” said Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. “The new system is an essential part of the County’s transportation network, cost-effectively balancing the needs of vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit, and enhancing overall mobility, safety and the quality of life for County residents.”
In 2009, following a problem with the outdated equipment, Leggett accelerated the schedule for replacement of the signal system.
In 1980, Montgomery County was ahead of its time as one of the first jurisdictions in the country to use a computer-based traffic signal control system to meet increasing transportation network demands through active management. The signal system allowed engineers to modify signal timings during rush hours, providing more green light time to the predominant flow of traffic, synchronize the timing of signals along major routes, and adjust signal timing in case of accidents, emergencies, special events, construction or other incidents that affect traffic flow. The signal system is part of the County’s Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS), which allows roads to handle more traffic more efficiently than would otherwise be possible and also helps decrease the environmental impacts of vehicular traffic.
The signal upgrade project is comprised of three phases. Phase one and two, which are now complete, replaced the central computers and software, installed new local intersection controllers and upgraded the communications network. The new system provides all of the control and monitoring functions of the current signal system, plus additional capabilities and tools to optimize traffic flow and support future applications. In phase three of the project, which will be completed over the next three years, other signal devices in the County will also be brought under the system’s control, such as school flashers and hazard beacons. In addition, in case of power failures, back up power systems will be installed at all 250 County-owned traffic signals.
The cost for planning and implementation of the completed phases of the signal system was $25.1 million. The cost of the next phase will be $10.8 million.
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