New Albany drivers who hate encountering several red lights in a row soon could be in for a break.
So could their neighbors in Bexley, Columbus, Grandview Heights and Whitehall, thanks to funding from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission that would allow city engineers to control the signals via computer.
The five cities are slated to connect traffic signals to fiber-optic lines as a result of funding they received from MORPC in 2015, said Nick Gill, assistant transportation director for MORPC. For several years, Columbus has been using MORPC funding to connect its signals, he said.
Connected traffic signals would be controlled via computer, which could improve the flow of traffic by making drivers stop less frequently at intersections along the same corridor, Gill said.
City engineers would be able to monitor the signals via cameras and adjust them remotely from city offices, said senior traffic engineer David Samuelson of E.P. Ferris & Associates, the design and engineering firm working with Bexley, Grandview Heights, New Albany and Whitehall on the connectivity projects.
Engineers would be able to adjust signals based on the time of day, changing how long the green signals last and how frequently drivers would see green lights, Samuelson said.
"The whole goal of this is to be able to move traffic better," he said.
Each community is using the same type of software, but signals would be controlled by the individual cities, Samuelson.
The cities could coordinate the signals across jurisdictions and should not have to hire additional staff members to control them, he said.
In New Albany, for example, the city would connect 24 traffic signals through its fiber-optics system, said Mark Nemec, New Albany's public-services director.
Employees at the city's public-services facility and New Albany Police Department would monitor traffic via cameras, he said.
One goal of the project is to improve air quality, Nemec said.
Sitting at traffic lights means longer commutes, which means more air pollution, Gill said.
Connections in New Albany would include signals at intersections and points along Beech Road, Dublin-Granville Road, Fodor Road, Johnstown Road (U.S. Route 62), New Albany Road East and New Albany-Condit Road (state Route 605). A handful of the intersections are in Licking County and the rest are in Franklin County.
New Albany received project funding from MORPC in 2015 and has been developing project plans since 2016, Nemec said. The project is expected to be bid in January, with construction beginning in April and concluding in April 2020, and it would not affect traffic with any lane closures or restrictions, he said.
The construction costs, MORPC funding and local funding for the projects include:
* Bexley: $1,752,193, $1,752,193 and $0.
* Columbus (Phase E): $12,912,661, $11,917,764 and $994,897.
* Grandview Heights: $1,336,557, $601,644 and $0.
* New Albany: $1,330,507, $984,800 and $345,707.
* Whitehall: $3,109,838, $1,119,250 and $0.
Costs have increased for Grandview Heights and Whitehall projects and those cities have requested additional funding to cover them, which is why no local funding is listed, Gill said.
"MORPC is in the process of evaluating their request for additional funding," he said.
Columbus' Phase E is the fifth phase in a series of projects to make all the city's traffic signals part of a new central traffic control system, according to the city's website. The phase includes 220 signalized intersections.
Construction is slated to begin spring 2019 and conclude autumn of 2020, according to the website.
Jeff Ortega, assistant director with the Columbus Department of Public Service, said the city's most recent phase of its traffic signal connectivity project will include Columbus' west, south, the southwest, far north and northeast neighborhoods.
Columbus is working independently on its connections, Samuelson said. The city has roughly 1,000 signals being connected in a series of phases, he said.
Bexley, Grandview Heights and Whitehall will begin construction in fall 2019 and conclude about a year later, Samuelson said.
Bexley's project involves connecting 15 signals along Main and Broad streets, he said. The city previously had used coaxial cable to connect signals, but will upgrade to fiber-optic cable, which can process more data and be used with future technology as it becomes available, he said.
Whitehall's project includes connecting 26 signals along Main Street, Broad Street and Hamilton Road, Samuelson said. Like Bexley, the city is upgrading from coaxial to fiber-optic cable.
Grandview Heights will connect the city's 16 signals with fiber-optic cable, Ferris said. The city previously had coaxial cables connecting only two of the signals, he said.