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1-in-4 chance of hitting red light on Utah highways

State highway officials said the system allows engineers to optimize the flow of traffic by fine-tuning the timing of signals.

The Associated Press

12/26/2013

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah drivers have only a one-in-four chance of getting stuck at a red light on state highways, thanks to a state-of-the-art traffic control system.

State highway officials said the system allows engineers to optimize the flow of traffic by fine-tuning the timing of signals.

As of November, statewide odds of getting stopped at a red light were 28 percent, according to the Utah Department of Transportation.

Mark Taylor, a traffic engineer with UDOT, told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/19nm2ox) that officials no longer have to guess at what timing tweaks will improve conditions.

They instead rely on radar and video units and electromagnetic loops embedded in pavement, all of which send traffic data instantly to operators, who can pinpoint the exact adjustments needed.

"It's revolutionary," Taylor said.

The Transportation Department has developed special software that then helps analyze that data.

Rob Clayton, the department's traffic management director, said that before the current system, operators didn't immediately know how changing the timing of traffic signals would affect drivers.

"The most common way we would learn about problems was through complaints," Clayton said. "That's not ideal. We would like to fix problems before they cause trouble."

Clayton said the system also quickly alerts UDOT if there's a technical problem such as a traffic light that's out.

UDOT has put the system's reports online so members of the public can review data about specific intersections or corridors.

Clayton said the system allows engineers to smooth the flow of traffic and ultimately increase the capacity of Utah's highways so they can handle more cars in the future.

"It's apparent to everybody that we can't just widen roads to meet future demands," Clayton said. "We need to gain capacity, and this is an area that will help us improve capacity — and service."

Online: udottraffic.utah.gov/signalperformancemetrics/

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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