Monday, November 30, 2009
In the early morning hours of November 4, the County’s traffic signal computer system failed. Although all signals were working, the failure meant that the signals did not switch over to rush hour mode, which gives preference to the predominant flow of traffic, and the signals were not synchronized along major commuting routes. Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) engineers successfully resolved the problem by reestablishing the connection between the computer and the traffic signals in the early evening of November 5.
Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in the region with the capability to respond to traffic tie-ups in real time by monitoring and adjusting all 835 signaled intersections. Every commuter knows how congested the region’s roads are. But the average person had little knowledge about how much MCDOT’s intervention helps to keep traffic moving until the system stopped working.
To assist commuters during the outage, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett directed Ride On buses to offer free rides on Thursday and Friday, November 5 and 6.
Leggett said, “When I took office in 2006, the traffic management system was 26 years old and counting and no provision had been made for replacement. I, however, changed that by initiating a six-year $35 million project, $12 million of which is from the State of Maryland, to replace, upgrade and modernize the system.
“We are now in the second year of that six-year process – doing the design and planning. Since November 4, our system has, again, worked perfectly. But we can’t count on that indefinitely. I have asked our engineers to take a hard look at accelerating this complex project to get a new system in place sooner rather than later.
“I also directed our Department of Transportation to devise a failsafe plan to engineer individual traffic signals in our most critical corridors so that, were the system to go out again before we secure a replacement, they would be able to operate on rush-hour and non-rush hour timing – even if the central computer went down. Engineers have now completed this work at the 200 most important intersections in the County.”