Mesa is expecting holiday traffic to flow through the Superstition Springs area a little more smoothly this shopping season, but the prediction has nothing to do with the spastic economy's effect on shoppers.
Rather, the city is testing a new traffic signal system that monitors traffic at every intersection and constantly tweaks timing of the lights. It's the first system of its kind in Arizona and is being studied during the holidays to see if it improves traffic flow, said Alan Sanderson, deputy transportation director.
Mesa installed the system in the Superstition Springs retail district because the area's numerous signals and turn arrows create the best potential to improve traffic flows with a more responsive program, Sanderson said.
"We're pretty anxious to see how that works out and if it turns out to do a better job managing that traffic, then we'll look at possibly expanding to the Fiesta (Mall) area and other potential locations," Sanderson said.
Like many cities, Mesa has a traffic management system with several timing plans that change throughout the day in response to established traffic patterns. But the system doesn't respond to changes such as a heavier traffic flow during the holiday shopping season, Sanderson said.
The new system measures every intersection, with buried detectors or cameras that sense vehicles. It then adjusts timing to maximize efficiency, Sanderson said.
The program, the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System, was developed in Australia and has been refined over several decades. SCATS manages 18 signals around the mall, mostly on Superstition Springs Boulevard, Power Road and Southern Avenue.
The system was installed this summer with a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration. The funding includes a study that should be finished in early 2012.
"I think the results of this study will be used by the FHA and other cities in the same situation as us to see if it's really worthwhile to take the next step or not," Sanderson said.
If would take many years to expand the system citywide, Sanderson said. It's more costly to run SCATS than the current plan because every intersection on the system would need detectors to measure traffic flows.
Mesa has 408 signalized intersections.
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