AUBURN — Drivers along the Twin Cities' main downtown route should see faster travel times with better-timed traffic lights, as long as they stick to the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit.
"It's when they try to go faster that they end up in a problem," said Jennifer Williams, director for the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center. "They rush between lights and get stopped, and that's when they start to get mad."
Traffic engineers have been testing that assumption along the corridor from Main Street, Lewiston, to Court Street, Auburn, and at several other locations around the area over the week. Results of the test should be released in the next few weeks.
"Hopefully, we've been mildly successful, at least — especially on this corridor," said Transportation Planner Jason Ready. "We have been working on coordination for some time, but we have other corridors that have been worked on more recently."
The cities and the resource center have been working to time the Twin Cities' lights since 2006, starting with the Main Street-Court Street corridor. By 2008, they had connected all the traffic signals along that stretch and synchronized them.
They currently have lights along three corridors connected and coordinated — Main Street/Court Street between High Street in Lewiston and the Union Street bypass in Auburn; Auburn's Center Street from Mount Auburn Avenue north; and Lewiston's Main Street around Mollison Way.
That means those lights can be monitored and have their timings updated remotely from the resource center's offices.
"We collect all kinds of data and put together models, and that's what these plans are based on," Ready said. "But we don't just base everything off of a model. We have to try it and test it and see how it works in the real world, to make sure everything works right."
It also lets transportation officials tweak and set the lights for specific conditions. For example, the Main Street-Court Street corridor lights are timed to provide more green lights for drivers going from Auburn to Lewiston in the morning and from Lewiston to Auburn in the evening.
"That's when the traffic flows are heaviest, so going in that direction, you are much more likely to get a continuous series of green lights," Ready said. "If you are traveling in the opposite direction, it should still work pretty good, but you are more likely to be stopped at least somewhere along the way."
Four other corridors are timed and monitored remotely but cannot be controlled remotely. Those corridors are Auburn's Minot Avenue between Court and High streets; New Auburn along Broad and Mill streets; Auburn's Mount Auburn Avenue; and Lewiston's East Avenue.
The new traffic light at Strawberry Avenue and Main Street will be monitored when it comes online later this month. Ready said state crews are expected to do work along Sabattus Street between Old Greene and Campus roads next year, and that will automate those lights as well.