SHA plans to link traffic signals to computer Aim is fewer tie-ups along Route 140 CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

October 05, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

When Bob Marsiglia leaves his home in The Greens at 5:30 a.m. for his job in Owings Mills, traffic on Route 140 around Westminster isn't too bad.

Coming home is a different story.

"I tell my wife it takes longer to get from [Route] 97 to Royer Road than it does from [Interstate] 795 to 97, because of the lights," he says. "You stop at [the light at] McDonald's and then you stop at the next light."

Mr. Marsiglia's morning commute takes 30 minutes; the afternoon commute, 45.

The State Highway Administration (SHA) is planning a project that transportation officials say will help relieve the congestion, but it won't be the long-discussed Westminster bypass.

"Funds to build new roadways are drying up and we have to make do with what we have," said Gene R. Straub, assistant engineer for traffic in the district that covers Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties.

The SHA plans to link the six traffic signals on Route 140 from Sullivan Road to Route 97 to a master computer that will be able to set the timing of the lights to accommodate heavy or light traffic.

Mr. Straub said the computerized signal system, which replaces individual time clocks in each traffic light, should make better use of the roadway, reduce pollution from idling exhausts and decrease the number of accidents -- particularly rear-end collisions when the lights change.

The computer project, estimated to cost $381,000, is tentatively scheduled to be advertised for bids in April 1993. Construction would take about 60 working days and would be completed during the summer of 1993, Mr. Straub said.

When the system is in place, sampling stations at each end and in the middle of the Sullivan Road-to-Route 97 section will count cars. The master computer will have the ability to analyze the data and set the traffic lights for longer greens in the eastbound lanes in the morning and westbound lanes in the afternoon, Mr. Straub said.

The signal system will be tied to the SHA traffic and safety office near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Staff members there will be able to pull up displays on their computer terminals to check on how well the system is working, Mr. Straub said.

The physical interconnection will also make it easier to keep the lights synchronized, he said. When the time clocks get off schedule, work crews have to reset them by hand.

The SHA is giving the Route 140 system priority because of the high number of traffic signals in a relatively short distance, Mr. Straub said. He said the state agency gets frequent complaints from commuters about that section of roadway.

By SHA counts, traffic on Route 140 averages 45,000 cars a day.

A Westminster bypass has been included in state capital project plans for several years. The SHA has allocated $1 million in planning money to study alternate bypass routes in its current six-year capital program, but no money is earmarked for construction. The first computerized signal system in the SHA district that covers Carroll, Howard and Frederick counties was installed on Frederick's Golden Mile, the section of Route 40 east of Route 15 that is lined with shopping centers.

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