When Sarasota County Director of Public Works Jim Harriott received a complaint from an area resident about the timing of traffic lights causing motorists to hit back-to-back red lights along a section U.S. 41, he drove up and down the road to experience the problem firsthand.
“I challenge anyone to get two or more traffic lights in a row,” Walt Angel wrote in a March 20 email to the Sarasota County Commission, referring to the U.S. 41 corridor from Stickney Point Road to Nokomis.
Harriott’s fieldwork validated Angel’s complaints.
“Stopping at Stickney Point Road and Gulf Gate Drive can be very frustrating,” Harriott responded in a March 22 email to Commissioner Nora Patterson. “It appears we still need to do an offset adjustment between the two signals. I drove it northbound and southbound several times and noticed the greens were coordinated about 50% of the trips.”
Harriott’s observations are part of an ongoing project to improve the timing of area traffic signals as Sarasota and Manatee counties work to implement a joint automated traffic signal system called ATMS, which is designed to minimize traffic congestion and improve roadway safety.
“The more green lights you provide the fewer accidents you get,” Harriott said.
The installation of the ATMS is a multiphase project. Phases one and two (which include segments of U.S. 41 from Stickney Point to Nokomis) are expected to be complete May 25.
The timing plans for phases one and two have been installed, Harriott said, and are currently being adjusted by engineers who both drive the routes and analyze footage from cameras and data from motion sensors installed at intersections.
After determining that the timing of lights along U.S. 41 needed to be improved, Harriott reported the issue to Sarasota County traffic signal technicians, who adjusted the stoplights to improve traffic flow. Harriott also recommended adjusting traffic signals on U.S. 41 at the Roberts Road and Oaks intersections.
Sarasota County has invested about $15 million in the ATMS. The system has proven effective at streamlining traffic in certain areas and rerouting drivers to avoid roadways shut down or blocked by accidents, Harriott said.
The ATMS will ultimately outfit 160 signalized intersections in Sarasota County with new technology such as 112 miles of fiber optic cable on regional roads as well as 89 closed-circuit TV cameras.
The system will be operated according to a 2005 interlocal agreement between Sarasota and Manatee counties. Sarasota County foots about 40% of the approximately $150,000 annual operating cost, the city of Sarasota is responsible for about 8%, and the city of Bradenton and Manatee County share the remainder.
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