An updated computerized system to speed Dallas traffic is slow arriving after years of planning and millions of dollars in tax money to help pay for it, city leaders learned this week.
The Advanced Traffic Management System will remotely synchronize traffic signals to improve traffic flow and reduce delay.
Dallas has received a total of more than $6 million in grants from regional transportation planners in 2014 and 2015 to pay for it. Some of the equipment is installed already, but the Dallas City Council Transportation Committee was told Monday that computer control will not work until December and final completion is not due until 2020.
"I'm a huge fan of this," said City Councilwoman Sandy Greyson. "We need to do this and move forward with this as quickly as possible. One of my goals in life is to hit every light green as I go down the road, and this will help me achieve that."
Greyson asked city traffic officials about the signal at Arapaho Road where she has been stopped by the red light for years coming north on Hillcrest Road from Interstate-635/LBJ Freeway.
"How come every once in a while you guys throw in a light that, no matter how you do it, you're not going to get it green," Greyson asked. "Why do you do that, to keep us from having a total progression down the road?"
Auro Majumdar, assistant director of Dallas Mobility and Street Services, said delay is not the goal.
"Seventy percent of our intersections have broken detectors, so we're basically operating blind," he said. "We don't see cars coming."
Driver Isiah McGrueer said he notices the problem at Hillcrest and Arapaho daily and other places in Dallas, too.
"I think some lights could be adjusted so traffic could flow," he said. "I think they cause traffic to back up."
Computer control could be less effective on bad signal equipment. The city also reported recently a $290 million backlog of signals in need of repair or replacement.
At the corner of Fort Worth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard Friday, electrical tape loosely held the cover on one signal base. Another signal was down completely from a traffic accident. Wind rattled the loose frame around one signal high on a pole.
"Once they set them after a time, that setting is wrong. They have to go back every so often and check them," driver Cliff Couch said.
Advanced traffic management would set signals by remote control from a central computer and also monitor traffic flow to adjust signals accordingly.
Of 1,500 Dallas intersections, 440 have been equipped with advanced traffic signal controllers that include cellular modems for communication. Purchase of new solutions to integrate with a central computer system and replace outdated equipment is planned for this summer, according to the City Council briefing this week.
Eventually the new system will also communicate with traffic management in other cities around North Texas.
"It does seem like a long time, but they're trying, I guess. So hopefully they can get it together," said driver Isiah McGrueer.