Transportation

Adaptive Traffic Signals Could Make Aberdeen, S.D.'s Busiest Street Tolerable (Editorial)

A prospective plan by the South Dakota Department of Transportation would upgrade traffic lights on Aberdeen's Sixth Avenue by replacing its current system with a more adaptive one that adjusts the length of signals by using real-time data.

by American News / April 12, 2018
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(TNS) — Most drivers in Aberdeen, S.D., have avoided Sixth Avenue South at some point in their travel across town. Some drivers avoid it on a daily basis.

It’s usually not the traffic we’re trying to bypass — it’s the 15 traffic signals.

A plan to update these traffic signals on U.S. Highway 12 — our Sixth Avenue — by the South Dakota Department of Transportation would be a welcome improvement in our city.

As reported by Elisa Sand, the prospective plan by the SDDOT to upgrade the Sixth Avenue traffic lights would include replacing the master controller that programs all of the signals based on generalized traffic patterns. The controller would be replaced by an adaptive system which adjusts the length of signals using real-time data.

The only other city in South Dakota that has upgraded to this type of traffic signal control is Sioux Falls, and traffic flow in the adopted areas has shown immediate improvement. That’s because the adaptive system is constantly monitoring and updating signal timing.

Right now, the timing process doesn’t accommodate unpredictable traffic demands, like train delays, weather conditions, special events, and other traffic incidents. An adaptive system, according to the Federal Highway Administration, can better deal with irregular patterns because it is continuously updating traffic information.

How awesome would that be after a train backs up traffic from South Fifth Street to M&H, or when you’ve been stopped at the "Arby’s Light" for what seems like an awfully long time?

There is also evidence that improving traffic flow decreases the likelihood of collisions. This has proven true in Sioux Falls. With more than a dozen lights on Sixth, we have to be hyper-vigilant. That’s not going to change, but if improving traffic flow could reduce even a few accidents, it would be worthwhile.

And, while the greatest benefit adaptive systems boast is improved traffic flow, there are other benefits for Aberdeen. To start, people would not be as likely to bypass Sixth Avenue for less aggravating routes. Increasing the number of cars on our principal street may draw in new businesses and bolster those already there.

Right now, the Federal Highway Administration reports that less than 1 percent of existing traffic signals in the U.S. use adaptive systems but anticipates this will change because the benefits of adaptive systems are clear. Aberdeen, it’s hoped, will be among those cities to be early adopters.

While the plan to upgrade our traffic signals won’t begin until fiscal year 2019, we are hopeful things proceed. Traffic here isn’t terrible by any means, but having an adaptive system on Sixth Avenue South would definitely be a welcome improvement!

©2018 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.