By Courtney Beale
Thursday, July 5, 2012
A new type of adaptive traffic signal technology is being used in the Pantops area of U.S. 250 to relieve traffic congestion. While other parts of the community have intelligent traffic signals, the Pantops system goes beyond timing plans and adds scanning of side-street traffic needs.
The Virginia Department of Transportation installed InSync signal controllers last fall to improve the flow of traffic following the move of Martha Jefferson Hospital to its new home on Pantops.
“It’s a relatively inexpensive way to increase the capacity of the corridor there,” said VDOT engineer Joel DeNunzio.
Pantops was the first place in the greater Albemarle area to receive the technology, which uses sensors and cameras to monitor traffic flow. It analyzes the data it collects and programs the stoplights to allow traffic from the side streets to merge into gaps in oncoming traffic on 250.
“It knows when a platoon of traffic is moving along the main line and senses the demand along the side streets and is able to change its timing based on that,” DeNunzio said.
InSync was developed by Rhythm Engineering, a Kansas-based engineering firm that has installed the technology at more than 700 intersections in 19 states. It costs about $30,000 per intersection.
Jenny Kutz, the firm’s marketing manager, said InSync has other benefits beyond improving traffic flow.
“With less stopping there is less chance for accidents,” Kutz said. “InSync is proven to reduce crashes by up to a third and we are seeing that in three different cities with police data.”
Kutz also said InSync can reduce travel time up to 50 percent and fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30 percent.
Not everyone who drives the corridor has noticed improved traffic flow, though.