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Fort Worth is behind in syncing traffic signals

The city is spending only about half the money needed to keep traffic signals synced and in turn reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

Under national guidelines, Fort Worth should be spending about $4.8 million a year to maintain its traffic signals, have one signal timing engineer for every 100 traffic signals and re-time the lights every three years, said Doug Wiersig, director of transportation and public works.

Instead, Fort Worth is spending about $2.4 million a year, has one timing engineer for every 160 traffic signals and recalibrates its lights every five years.

The city has 799 traffic lights.

“We are really at half the rate that we need to be, if you want to get out there and do it,” Wiersig told the City Council in a presentation Tuesday.

In 2014, the city re-timed lights at 80 intersections along nine corridors, including Amon Carter Boulevard, Camp Bowie Boulevard, Golden Triangle Boulevard, Granbury Road, University Drive, Hemphill Street, Texas 170, Texas 183 and Trinity Boulevard.

The city is also applying for a grant from the North Central Texas Council of Government that would re-time 140 intersections along nine additional corridors, Wiersig said.

The grant, awarded to address air quality, would allow the city to re-time parts of Hulen Street, Alta Mesa Boulevard, Beach Street, Bryant Irvin Road, McCart Avenue, Riverside Drive, Rosedale Street, Seminary Drive and Eighth Avenue.

Wiersig said the program is “moving in the right direction, and in the past we were not really that aggressive.”

The primary goals of synchronizing all lights are to improve safety, increase mobility and improve the air, since idling produces more vehicle emissions.

“If traffic signals are timed correctly, everyone operates a little more friendly on the road,” Wiersig said.

Just over 75 percent of Fort Worth’s traffic signals are not connected to the central communication system, but Wiersig said many of those are isolated and “really don’t lend themselves to synchronization.”

The lights downtown — 135 of them — are connected to the central communication system, Wiersig said, which makes synchronization easier. In all, 195 traffic signals are connected to the central system for synchronization.

Wiersig also said the city should be more aggressive with ongoing preventive maintenance. Guidelines set by transit engineers and federal agencies say they should be checked twice a year, but Fort Worth maintains its lights once a year. It also has just one maintenance officer for every 50 lights; the optimal proportion is one for every 35 lights.

“And then somewhere we have to look at where we find additional resources,” he said.

Mayor Betsy Price commended Wiersig’s staff for moving forward with getting the lights fixed and going after grants.

“At least we have it on our radar and we can answer people that it is beginning to move forward,” she said.

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