Construction report: Much ado about traffic lights

Improvements to traffic lights around Fairbanks are expected to increase traffic efficiency....
Improvements to traffic lights around Fairbanks are expected to increase traffic efficiency. (Ramzi Abou Ghalioum/KTVF) (KTVF)
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 3:55 PM AKDT
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On Wednesday morning, Fairbanks drivers will awaken to two new traffic signals on College Road.

The signals going live on Wednesday are part of a multi-phase project being implemented by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT). They can be found at the College Rd./Illinois St. and College Rd./Crossover Way, and are expected to increase traffic efficiency due to a number of improvements DOT is making to the physical signals themselves, as well as how those signals are controlled.

“We’ve been replacing signals for several years in the Fairbanks area,” says Caitlin Frye, Northern Region Information Officer with DOT. “Related to this signal upgrade project, we also have a signal interconnect project,” she adds.

The interconnect project sees a network fiber optic cables connecting traffic signals across Fairbanks to DOT’s traffic operations center. “This will allow us to adjust signal timings from the office as opposed to actually going out to the intersection like we do now,” Frye explains. Currently, she goes on to say that lighting and signal foremen must go out to the signals to make adjustments.

She adds that this will allow DOT to adjust signal timings to “make sense for a corridor,” using the example of Airport Way’s disjointed signal timings causing multiple red-light stops for drivers. The new signal system would, ideally, eliminate such experiences.

Additionally, new vehicular detection systems at these signals, which are based on radar technology rather than on cameras, will better determine when cars are at or approaching a signal. This will allow the signals to more efficiently change if there are no cars waiting to cross, reducing wait times for drivers on other sides of the intersection.

The signals will also extend green times –up to a point— if they detect approaching vehicles.

Additionally, flashing yellow left-turn signals are being added to certain signals, where appropriate, to more efficiently allow drivers to make left turns. Examples of such signals can be seen at the Mitchell Expressway/University Ave. intersection, and at the Geist Rd./Thompson Dr. intersection.

Additional signals at the Cowles St./Airport Way and Trainor Gate Rd./Steese Highway intersections will also be similarly upgraded.

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