Traffic congestion on Meridian Ave. in downtown Puyallup is far too familiar of a sight for locals and visitors alike.
Since expanding Meridian isn’t an option, City officials are hopeful the Intelligent Traffic System (ITS), set to go live next week, will relieve the bottleneck of one of Puyallup’s main arteries.
The system allows the signals to talk to each other and adjust traffic based on the number of vehicles it sees.
With the help of local and federal grants, the ITS is a product of zero true City money, according to City Engineer Mark Palmer. Palmer and other city officials began applying for grants for the project in January 2014.
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The Insync Adaptive Control System is expected to turn on the week of Aug. 10, and will start by learning how the traffic pattern flows, but not making adjustments just yet.
“The system tries to modify signal timing,” Palmer said of system’s function. “The device will monitor traffic throughout the month, and will check for non-normal traffic patterns.”
Along the Meridian and 2nd and 3rd Street corridor, the city has mounted the system on 17 different signals. Following a few weeks of traffic monitoring, the signals will be switched over for detecting traffic.
“The system decides which way traffic needs to flow without bottling up side streets,” Palmer said.
The Insync system is advertised to reduce the number of backups, and could even reduce collisions.
“It could reduce the traffic flow by 10 to 20 percent,” Palmer said.
Since widening Meridian isn’t an option for the city, Palmer says it is the only tool left to ease congestion.
Combined with heavy vehicle traffic, the trains that typically roll through town also disrupt the current signal system, and it typically takes three to five signal cycles to adapt back to normal. The new system, however, will detect the train traffic and adapt the signal cycles to match.
Another feature is that the signals can be accessed through an IP address, allowing city officials access any intersection on the system at anytime.
“The holy grail will be if it can withstand (Washington State) Fair traffic,” Palmer said. “But the bottom line is that you get to a certain level of traffic that you can’t help with.”
The goal is to get the ITS on main thoroughfares around town, but that goal remains questionable and depends heavily on available grant funding, he said.