Dallas City Council members unanimously approved a long-planned upgrade of Dallas traffic management computers Wednesday.
The $9.8 million contract will replace 1980s-era computers in the Dallas City Hall Traffic Management Center.
The computers currently in use communicate with 1,500 intersections around the city to coordinate traffic flow, but the old computers are outdated and traffic control capability is limited.
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Poorly timed signals are a big complaint among Dallas drivers, and council members had their own complaints about specific intersections.
"A lot of cities do this better that we do it," said Councilman Philip Kingston. "It is harder to get around on the surface streets of Dallas than it is in more modern cities, essentially."
New control box equipment at intersections that can take advantage of the upgraded computer capabilities has been installed at just 600 locations.
Voters will be asked to approve another $20 million to upgrade control boxes at the remaining 900 intersections as a portion of a November bond referendum for street repair.
"I believe the streets proposition is going to be a safe bet in November 2017," said Councilman Scott Griggs.
Council members learned Wednesday the backlog of street signal poles, lights and traffic sensing devices in need of replacement at Dallas intersections has now increased to $350 million from the $200 million estimate a few years ago. About 70 percent of the traffic sensing devices at Dallas intersections do not work, council members were told Wednesday.
Equipment replacement for 13 intersections was approved in separate votes of the City Council Wednesday, but there is not enough money for all the other replacement needs.
Officials said the traffic management computer upgrade approved Wednesday could start to improve traffic flow at the intersections with upgraded control boxes in about a year. If voters approve the money, it could take up five years to upgrade all the control boxes.
"This is still a really good thing that we're doing here, and once it gets up and going we're going to all see the benefits of this," Councilwoman Sandy Greyson said.
Fewer stops at red lights can reduce fuel consumption and improve air quality.
Half of the $9.8 million approved Wednesday to improve traffic flow comes from state grants.