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Danbury, Conn., Officials Push for Fiber-Linked Smart Signals

A $6.6 million grant is taking the city of Danbury one step closer to a fiber-optic smart traffic signal system aimed at reducing congestion.The city's new system could be installed by the end of 2024.

(TNS) — A network of traffic signals linked by a citywide fiber-optic system that can be calibrated in real time to smooth traffic flow is one step closer now that the city's bid for a $6.6 million state grant has been given the green light.

"[T]his funding will allow us to have a reliable and robust communications backbone to monitor and control all traffic signals in the city of Danbury," Mayor Dean Esposito said in a statement. The fiber optic system, he said, "will enable the city to implement the latest in traffic control technologies such as adaptive traffic signals to adjust the timing of green signals to match current traffic conditions."

If that sounds like an improvement to the way traffic is coordinated today in the Hat City, it is, a regional planning leader said.

"When you have real-time adjustment capability to coordinate traffic you have better performance," said Francis Pickering, executive director of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, a regional group that approved Danbury's grant request to the state transportation department. "The fiber optic network will allow the city the ability to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, improve safety and reduce carbon emissions."

To say nothing of reducing driver frustration, said state Sen. Julie Kushner, D- Danbury.

"I live on the west side, and I see (congestion) every day, so this is a great step forward," Kushner said. "This is part of the effort by the legislature and the governor to reduce traffic idling time, reduce carbon emissions and make the state safer and healthier, so I am very appreciative of WestCOG's support."

WestCOG's unanimous vote last week to recommend Danbury's fiber-optic project to the state Department of Transportation's Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program comes at a time when the city's is trying to catch up to its population growth by improving its infrastructure.

In addition to classrooms, which the city can't build fast enough to keep pace with runaway enrollment, Danbury is upgrading its water system. On Monday, the City Council held a public hearing about borrowing $115 million for a water system upgrade.

"Congestion is a bigger issue than connecting traffic signals — it is one of the worst problems we have here in Danbury, and we need state and local officials to get together and talk," Kushner said. "We haven't built out our infrastructure to support all the new development and that's why our schools are overcrowded and our traffic is out of control."

The integration of the city's traffic controls will be overseen by Veera Karukonda, Danbury's traffic engineer, who quarterbacked the installation of a similar fiber-optic network when he worked in Stamford.

"We have done most of the design work already in house so we don't need to wait for a consultant to design the project," Karukonda said. "Also we are already in communication with Eversource which owns the utility poles," said Karukonda, adding that the fiber would be installed overhead.

That means that if everything goes as planned, the city's new fiber-optic system could be installed by the end of 2024, and the work to integrate the traffic signals could begin. The city hopes to secure more grants from the same state local transportation fund.

"We will have remote access to all the systems and all the operations and traffic patterns and conditions, and we can monitor it and control it remotely," Karukonda said.

©2023 The News-Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.