In the next two and a half years, Gilbert plans to drastically increase its use of technology to handle the town’s ever-increasing traffic congestion.
The Town Council on Tuesday approved a $625,000 traffic management center designed to allow engineers to monitor and adjust traffic control devices from a central location.
The center is expected to be online by March 2008 and will include a wall of six 50-inch video monitors as well as computers enabled to manipulate traffic signals at most intersections.
The facility will tell controllers via intersection cameras where traffic is getting tied-up so they can adjust nearby traffic signals to help clear out the jam.
For example, when controllers noticed traffic was backing up near Gilbert and Williams Field Roads, a camera at that intersection showed a contractor working nearby was the problem.
“We said, ‘Hey, we didn’t even know about them,’ ” said Rick Hooker, senior traffic engineer for Gilbert.
They were able to adjust the nearby light to stay green longer to clear the backup.
The town currently has video cameras monitoring traffic at two intersections along Gilbert Road at Warner Road and at Williams Field Road.
The town plans to increase that number to 60 in the next 30 months, and traffic engineers have requested a full-time employee in that department’s five year plan, Hooker said.
Much of the initial funding for the traffic center will come from a grant awarded by the Maricopa Association of Governments. Gilbert’s share will be about $127,000.
Chandler added a similar traffic center in 2002. Officials there said the cameras track traffic volumes, which is then used to adjust red light cycles so drivers traveling at the speed limit avoid as many red lights as possible.
In Chandler’s case, the city was responsible for $70,000 of the $450,000 total cost.
The video obtained in both Gilbert and Chandler are not recorded or used for law enforcement, officials said.