Raleigh to undergo traffic system overhaul


"You can count on being delayed a few times," driver Lester Daniels says.

Driver Tom Ray agrees. "You spend a lot of time at a light, maybe 5 minutes," he adds.

Help is on the way, says Raleigh's mayor. The city has been working on the design of a major traffic system overhaul for a couple of years, and construction will begin this fall. The plan is to install hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable and synchronize all of Raleigh's traffic signals.

"Currently what we see now is that lights are timed for a certain amount of traffic," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker. "If there's less traffic than that, the lights stay green too long. If there's more traffic, they turn red to soon. So they don't really adjust to conditions."

The new system, which comes with a price tag of about $28 million, is supposed to fix that.

"It's a fiber optic, real-time system which means each light is reporting into how much traffic it has," says Meeker. "If there's more traffic, it'll stay green longer. It'll notify the lights downstream to stay green longer. It'll overall help the traffic move more quickly."

The hope is to reduce travel times by about 10 percent to 15 percent citywide. Raleigh voters approved the project back in 2005 when they voted for $7 million on bonds to partially fund the project. Federal dollars will pay the lion's share of the cost, picking up the remaining $21 million.

And although the project has been on the table for years, its timing ends up being even better than expected.

"Given where we are with gas prices, this couldn't come at a better time," says Meeker.

Faster commute times couple with less idling should lead to improved gas mileage; drivers are looking forward to it.

"If it's gonna cut down time or cut down gas costs and things of that nature, that's better economics, that makes sense to me," says Kenyatt Dew of Raleigh.

People should start to notice some construction this fall. The hope is to finish all the synchronizing by 2010.

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