AUBURN — A steady speed from Minot Avenue to Sabattus Street in Lewiston along the Court Street-Main Street corridor should let most drivers avoid stopping at traffic lights, according to transit planners.
Transportation engineers at the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center have been working to synchronize the traffic lights along Lewiston-Auburn's main drag, and they've mostly succeeded, according to Director Don Craig — as long as drivers stick to the 25 mph speed limit.
"The key is staying at the speed limit," Craig told city councilors at a special meeting Tuesday. "If you maintain the speed limit along Court Street, you shouldn't have to stop, from Minot Avenue all the way to the Lewiston hospitals. That's going to be true 80 percent of the time."
Craig said the resource center and both cities are currently upgrading the signals and connecting them on four other Twin Cities' streets — along Center Street, the Union Street bypass and Mount Auburn Avenue in Auburn and Lewiston's north Main Street and East Avenue.
The entire project is costing $360,000. That includes $288,000 in federal stimulus money, $36,000 from the state and $18,000 each from Lewiston and Auburn.
Traffic lights along all of those streets would be linked to a computer system at the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center in Auburn, where they could be controlled, monitored and tweaked to make them more efficient.
The cities began trying in 2006 to synchronize the lights downtown, along the corridor from Main Street in Lewiston to Court Street in Auburn. By 2008, they had connected the 13 traffic signals along that stretch and synchronized them.
Craig acknowledged three problems with keeping the Court Street-Main Street corridor synchronized — emergency vehicles, the train and traffic at the intersection with Mechanics Row.
Craig said the lights are designed to work themselves back into rhythm if they are knocked out by either the train or emergency vehicles.
"And new technology we are installing should make that recovery even faster," he said. He said old technology allows the signals to be back in their normal rhythm within six cycles. New technology should let them get back in synchronization within one or two cycles.
But Mechanics Row is something else.
"We acknowledge that there is a problem there, and we've done what we can so far to correct it," Craig said. "We are aware, and we are still working on it."