LEWISTON — Commuters, rejoice: Sabattus Street is getting quicker and safer.
In a $700,000 project, seven traffic lights on Sabattus Street and one on the corner of Russell Street and East Avenue are being synced for less stop-and-go traffic.
"(Right now) the signals aren't working together; they're not tied together," said Brian Keezer, Maine Department of Transportation traffic project manager. "You could potentially go through and have to stop at all eight signals; that's not efficient in any sense."
The strip of road has been a "candidate project" for several years, he said. Funding came through last year, 90 percent federal money with a 10 percent state match.
The seven lights along Sabattus Street stretch from the intersection with Campus Avenue to Old Greene Road.
Project engineers at Vanasse Hangen Brustlin have estimated the changes will knock an average 1 minute and 15 seconds off travel time and mean as many as 15 fewer accidents per year.
Work began in mid-June and is expected to wrap up Aug. 31. Each light will get new, Americans with Disabilities Act-approved ramps, push-button pedestrian signals and overhead signs.
"They'll be all working off one master controller which runs the timing for each signal," Keezer said. "The goal is you get a nice progression through the corridor. Once you hit one green signal, and you're going the right speed, you should, ideally, get all green lights."
Western Avenue in Augusta and Forest Avenue in Portland have had similar makeovers.
"I drive them personally and I noticed a huge difference from before," Keezer said.
Vanasse Hangen Brustlin estimated drivers will save, collectively, 140 gallons of gas per day and that the project will pay for itself in savings from electricity use, fuel, crash damage and signal maintenance by June 2015.
The time to drive through all seven lights is forecast to drop from 3 minutes 45 seconds to 2 minutes 30 seconds.
One drawback: Having longer green lights on Sabattus might cause longer red lights on the side streets, Keezer said.
The new traffic light being installed in front of the Dunkin' Donuts on Wildwood Road isn't part of the project but will be tied in later.