Transportation center seeks to tame Twin Cities traffic signals

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AUBURN — Efforts to network Twin Cities’ traffic lights and time them to work more efficiently  should move beyond downtown Lewiston-Auburn this summer.

Transportation officials have plans to link lights along Minot Avenue, Center and Main streets and Mount Auburn Avenue in Auburn, and along East Avenue and Main Street near Mollison Way in Lewiston.

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.

“When one traffic corridor doesn’t work well, it sends people out looking for alternate routes,” said John Adams, senior transportation engineer for Sebago Technics. “That creates traffic in other areas that might not be suited for it, and it can create problems in other corridors.”

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Sebago Technics is helping the center figure out which traffic signals to link and is designing the entire system.

“This is a two-phase project,” Adams said. “First, we need to get the systems installed, so the lights can begin communicating with each other. Then, we can begin studying the systems and improving light coordination.”

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.

“They were set to turn progressively green along that main way, one after another,” said Jason Ready, transportation planner for the center. “So, for example, if it takes 10 seconds to go from one signal to another, we want the second light to change 10 seconds after the first.”

Communication problems between traffic signals managed to knock them out of synchronization occasionally. Traffic engineers had to go out to the signals to connect them and re-time them.

The plan now is to connect the master Main Street-Court Street corridor signal — at the intersection of Lisbon and Main Street in Lewiston — to the Transportation Resource Center’s offices. Ready will be able to change the timing of those signals from his office.

The next step will be to connect the lights along Minot Avenue — from Union Street Bypass to High Street — and the light at Main and Academy streets in Auburn to the center’s offices.

“When that’s done, we’ll be able to monitor all of those and make sure they’re working right,” Ready said.

The Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center will take bids in May for the next round of improvements, connecting lights in Lewiston and along Mount Auburn Avenue, Adams said.

Plans call for connecting the lights along East Avenue from Sabattus to Lisbon streets to each other, and then to the center’s system. Lights along Main Street, between Mollison Way and Market Place Mall, would get the same treatment.

In Auburn, crews would link the lights from Center Street between Mount Auburn Avenue and Stetson Road and along Mount Avenue from Turner Street to the Walmart entrance.

“Some of those corridors have communication now, between the lights, but we have no way of controlling them remotely,” Adams said. “So that’s the big push now, to give us remote access.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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