He said completing the replacements in one fell swoop is necessary because existing traffic controllers in the downtown district are no longer supported by manufacturer Peek Traffic Systems.
“Since the [downtown] corridor is a totally integrated system, all of the controllers must be of the same type to function properly,” Borden explained. “This prevents us from replacing the controllers in steps. This project is part of our Fiscal Year 2012 Capital Budget.”
Cleveland Utilities has embarked on redesigning the downtown traffic light network in response to growing concerns about operating cycles at several junctions, especially on Inman Street. Engineers discovered much of the problem was linked to improperly operating controllers whose age was impacting their functionality.
Upon closer inspection of the downtown issues, CU learned the extent of the equipment malfunctions and later discovered the limitations in ordering replacement parts.
“Design work for a hybrid fiber optics and radio communications system, and replacement of all traffic light controllers, has begun for the downtown traffic corridor,” Borden said.
The corridor consists of 13 intersections on Inman Street from Broad Street to Edwards Street, and Ocoee and Broad streets from 3rd Street SE to Central Avenue, the Electric Division manager explained.
Asked for a timetable by board member Chari Buckner on when the downtown traffic light conversions will begin, and when completion is expected, Borden said it will depend on delivery of the new equipment. He stressed the sooner the replacement equipment is received, the sooner crews can begin the needed updates.
“We’re very excited about getting started on this project and improving service for the downtown area,” Borden said.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, also a member of the utilities board, asked Borden to make a traffic light report on the downtown improvements at the next meeting of the Cleveland City Council. The Council’s next regularly scheduled session is Feb. 13 in the upstairs Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.
Cleveland Utilities inherited the coordination and operations of the city’s traffic light network in January 2011 when it was handed over to the Electric Division by the City Council.
In an unrelated traffic light report, Borden confirmed construction on the temporary traffic signal at Benton Pike and Durkee Road was completed Dec. 28, and was placed on flashing yellow-red for the required seven days. The light is now fully operational. It was erected in order to provide improved access, egress and safety in the area once the new Whirlpool manufacturing plant and distribution center are in production.
At last report, the 1 million square-foot, $120 million factory could be operational by late February. Construction on an accompanying 400,000 square-foot warehouse was scheduled to begin in January with completion set for year’s end.
Borden pointed out defective parts hindered the Benton Pike-Durkee traffic signal in the first few days of operation, but motorist safety was never an issue. The problem simply created longer delays for motorists.
“After placing the signal into service, it was discovered that two of the in-pavement vehicle detectors were faulty and not giving an indication of vehicle presence 100 percent of the time on Benton Pike,” Borden said. “The faulty detectors were replaced and the signal operation has been verified to be working properly.”
He stressed, “It should be noted the faulty detectors posed no danger to safety. It resulted in longer wait times for the signal to give a green passage.”
Another area project will soon include the placement of a temporary signal at the intersection of Benton Pike and Michigan Avenue Road. Again, the intent is to provide improved motorist safety because traffic congestion will worsen once the Whirlpool plant is operating.
Traffic in the area is also contributed by Michigan Avenue Elementary so school-related and bus traffic safety is also being targeted.
The signals are considered temporary because they will be replaced eventually by permanent traffic lights. The signals are being provided through pre-arranged agreements with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Their operation and maintenance will remain the responsibility of Cleveland Utilities.