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Carlsbad traffic light system to be modernized

CARLSBAD — Lack of coordination between Carlsbad’s traffic lights will soon be a thing of the past, as city staff unveiled a proposal to modernize the system at a council meeting Feb. 22.
The $3 million to $4 million project will update Carlsbad’s current 170 traffic signals, as well as link the signals to the new Traffic Management Center, to better control the flow of traffic based on real-time data.
“Without a doubt, we have room for improvement,” Senior Civil Engineer Doug Bilse said. “You can only get as good of coordination as you have information, and we need to update the signal equipment to get that better information.”
A wireless communication system will replace Carlsbad’s current video detection device. The live feed information will relay to a central unit where signals can be viewed and adjusted as needed, Bilse said.
“We want to use that data to develop a library of traffic signal plans and constantly select the best plan using real time data,” he said. “These plans will make more sense and they will be a lot more efficient.”
Currently, Carlsbad relies on a handful of traffic plans captured in the summer that are used throughout the year, with no adjustment for seasonal changes like weekday holidays, Bilse said.
El Camino Real and Palomar Airport Road — two of the most heavily trafficked roads in Carlsbad — will be the first corridors updated with the new technology.
“They are the most important corridors and the biggest challenge,” Bilse said. “It’s important that we get it done right.”
It is expected to take two to three years to update all of Carlsbad’s major corridors. Staff will be working with the finance department to determine the source of funding for the project, City Engineer Skip Hamman said.
City Council members recently indicated an update of the outdated traffic management system — long a source of frustration for Carlsbad residents — as a top priority at a goal-setting workshop.
“We all sit at red lights and look back and forth to see that there’s no cars coming,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said. He asked that the new equipment guarantee a reduction in wait times at red lights.
Bilse said the technology should provide around a 30 percent reduction in wait time on main corridors, although side streets might still see delays as main roads are given higher priority.
Council is expected to vote on bids for the wireless project in the coming weeks.