Strongsville, Ohio, to Buy $5.7M ‘Adaptive’ Traffic System

Red lights at major intersections will be controlled by one system, instead of the several individual closed systems that are in place now. Officials say the existing system is more than 20 years old.

by Bob Sandrick, The Plain Dealer / August 7, 2019
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(TNS) — The city, with financial assistance from the federal government, will pay a Wadsworth firm $5.7 million to upgrade its entire system of traffic signals.

Perram Electric Inc. – a designer, installer and maintainer of traffic signals – will install a new central control system for the city’s traffic lights. Red lights at major intersections will be controlled by one system, instead of several individual closed systems that are in place now, city Engineer Ken Mikula told cleveland.com.

Mikula said the central control system will include “adaptive technology that can sense inefficiencies and self-adjust for a better level of service.” When asked to elaborate and explain how that will work and what it will mean for drivers, he didn’t respond.

“Most of the traffic signal equipment controlling the city traffic signals is over 20 years old and is outdated,” Mikula said in an email to cleveland.com. “The project will utilize advanced technology in centralized and adaptive control to allow for better efficiency along the main corridors.”

However, the project will be more expensive that originally estimated. The original lone bid for construction was tossed out in June because it exceeded the engineer’s $4.7 million estimate by more than 10 percent.

Under state law, the city must reject bids if they “substantially” exceed 10 percent of the estimate. The city then increased its project estimate to $5.5 million, and Perram’s bid exceeded that estimate by 2.5 percent.

It’s not the first time in the last few months that Strongsville government has raised a construction project estimate after initial bids came in too high. The city threw out two rounds of offers for the Pearl Road-Royalton Road intersection safety improvement project after bids exceeded the engineer’s estimate by between 34 percent and 65 percent.

The city finally awarded the Pearl-Royalton contract to Schirmer Construction LLC in North Olmsted after increasing the project estimate from $536,794 to $844,382 at the advice of engineering consultants Euthenics Inc. In Cleveland and TMS Engineers in Twinsburg.

Schirmer’s winning bid of $888,662 exceeded the engineer’s revised estimate by 5 percent. Perram Electric also submitted a bid for the Pearl-Royalton project but didn’t win the contract.

City Council approved the Perram traffic-light contract July 15. Mikula said construction is scheduled to start in November and end by December 2021. He didn’t say whether Perram would work on one or several traffic signals at one time.

Energy & safety improvements

In April, council unanimously approved an ordinance that will allow the city to receive “up to” $1.4 million in Federal Highway Administration funds for the traffic-signal-upgrades. The Ohio Department of Transportation will administer the federal money.

Mikula told cleveland.com that the project will include replacing incandescent lamps in all traffic signals with LED lamps, which will reduce energy consumption and save the city money.

He said new fiber-optic lines will connect all traffic signals with a main computer and will replace “outdated and unreliable” dialup modems, which convert digital signals to analog signals, on several existing traffic lights. Mikula didn’t say whether the interconnectivity would allow for better coordination of traffic lights.

The project will also improve safety for pedestrian and bicyclists, Mikula said. All pedestrian signals will count down the number of seconds pedestrians have to cross the street. The signals will be more visible and will have backup power so that they keep working during outages.

Also, the signals will have radar and video detectors to make intersections safer for bicyclists, although Mikula did not explain how that will work. Curb ramps will be replaced so that they are compliant with the American Disabilities Act.

Inflation is here

In June, when the city first received offers for the traffic-signal project, the only bidder was Miller Cable Co. in Green Springs. Its bid of $5.9 million exceeded the engineer’s $4.7 million estimate by 26 percent.

Council had no choice but to reject that bid and authorize the administration to advertise for more offers. Council voted to do just that on June 6.

Mikula said the city’s traffic engineer design consultant, whom he didn’t name, recommended increasing the estimate to $5.5 million because the original estimate was based on past, similar projects throughout the state, as required by ODOT.

“We as well as other cities are finding that those (bids) are proving to be low,” Mikula said. “(Also), the technology involved in these types of systems is narrowing the field of bidders to just a few capable bidders, which also drives up costs.”

Besides Perram Electric, only Terrace Construction Co. Inc. in Cleveland submitted a bid in the second round. Terrace’s bid exceeded Perram’s bid by only about $5,700.

Perram’s $5.7 million bid was 21 percent over the original engineer’s estimate of $4.7 million.

©2019 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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