High-Tech Traffic Management Center Goes Live in Augusta, Ga.

There are 85 traffic signals throughout the county now connected to the network, but the goal is to have over 100 by the end of the year end and connect all of them in the near future, officials say.

by Jozsef Papp, The Augusta Chronicle / March 20, 2019

(TNS) — A new facility that will help manage traffic flow throughout Richmond County, Ga., officially opened Tuesday.

The Traffic Management Center, located in the Augusta Engineering Building, is expected to improve transportation efficiency on a day-to-day basis and during special events. The $4.5 million project was funded through Transportation Investment Act Band 1 funds.

John Ussery, Augusta's assistant director for traffic engineering, said the center will allow the department to monitor traffic signals in real time, which it was not able to do. It will also reduce traffic signal repair times. Without TIA funding, the project would have taken years.

"Even with local funding, it would have taken them years and years to fund enough money for us to actually be able to do that," Ussery said. "The big improvement with the TIA project is that we were able to get it all funded at the same time, so we can get it all built and installed at the same time."

Kenneth Franks, state TIA administrator, said the project is being done in conjunction with the city. He feels it can help tie in all other TIA projects in the area.

"Realistically, a technology like this has the potential to tie a whole bunch of projects together and make the whole system work more efficiently," Franks said. "We are excited to be here, excited to help the city. We are looking forward to see its success in the future."

Mayor Hardie Davis, along with city and Georgia Department of Transportation officials, attended the center's ribbon cutting ceremony. He had a chance to look at the center two weeks ago and believes the partnerships between local and state officials have been beneficial for growth.

"When you think about collaborating and working together across both local and state governments, to be able to deliver projects like this, it puts Augusta in a different league," Davis said. "It's collaborative efforts like these that will make Augusta better today and better tomorrow."

There are 85 traffic signals throughout the county now connected to the network, but the goal is to have over 100 by the year's end and connect all of them in the near future, Ussery said. There are over 270 traffic signals in Richmond County. Most of the ones now connected are on major routes between downtown and Interstate 520.

"Our goal is to get every single traffic signal connected to our network, so we can monitor them and maintain them, keep the public safe, keep the public moving," Ussery said.

The department now has access to 75 high definition cameras to monitor traffic. Ussery said the cameras will be used to monitor and improve traffic flow, not to catch traffic violators.

Officials also expect the center to improve emergency response times and benefit the transit system. Ussery said traffic signals will now be able to receive a signal from an emergency vehicle to automatically turn green to help make a faster response time. It will also cut cycles shorter, depending on the route, for the bus system.

Ussery said the traffic engineering department will staff the room and monitoring traffic from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but those hours will be extended during holidays or events like the upcoming Masters Tournament. Ussery said the tournament will be the first big test for the center.

The department previously had to set up at a local high school and could only see a few cameras at a time during the Masters. With the new center, Ussery expects to have better communication between the staff and be able to move traffic quicker. Franks believes the monitoring will benefit motorist during the tournament and on their day-to-day commutes.

" You look at the corridor the system has analyzed and it's the main corridors going through the region," Franks said. "Your daily commuter that is coming in from Columbia County into the city to work and going back out, they will be able to streamline, analyze traffic, reduce delays."

The city will unveil its Masters Week traffic plan next week at the Augusta Municipal Building.

©2019 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.