Dennis Daniel, manager of CU’s Electric Division, reported Thursday the local utility — which assumed control of the city’s traffic light design and timing effective Jan. 1 at the request of the Cleveland City Council — has launched a contract with a leading traffic consultant in Knoxville.
Cannon & Cannon will begin a traffic study of Paul Huff Parkway from Adkisson Drive (Frontage Road) east to North Lee Highway and also south on Keith Street from Stuart Road to Ocoee Crossing, Daniel told members of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities during a formal monthly gathering at the Tom Wheeler Training Center.
The Phase 1 Corridor Study will cost $47,000.
“It has been our observation and we have received several calls indicating that this is one of the most congested (areas) and potentially where changes in timing could have some of the greatest impact in improving traffic conditions,” Daniel said of the opening phase study. “Since these studies are extremely expensive, we will try to address the other corridors in upcoming budgets.”
At least two additional legs of traffic studies will be completed, as well as reviews of other intersections and high-traffic areas whose traffic congestion and general flow potentially can be eased with improvements — either with new traffic lights, redesigns or new programming.
The Phase 2 Corridor Study, set at a cost of $38,000, will include a section of 25th Street from Candies Lane east to the new Spring Creek development.
The Phase 3 Corridor Study, estimated to cost $22,000, will include a section of Keith Street from 20th Street to Grove Avenue.
“Once a coordination study is completed we will be in a position to add multiple timing programming or making timing changes to existing programming — if that is what is needed — that should optimize the controllers’ capabilities in that area and hopefully help reduce congestion,” Daniel explained.
Daniel laid out the traffic study plans with a caution to CU board members.
“ ... I want to stress, a traffic control system cannot cure every traffic problem, but in some instances it can and that is what we are exploring,” he said.
CU’s attention to Cleveland’s crowded streets is going several steps further. One is to specifically address what Daniel described as “hot spot” traffic issues by identifying intersections where timing settings can be added or adjusted to match traffic conditions at various time intervals during the day. CU is working with another consultant to look at three such “hot spot” intersections. These include:
n North Ocoee Street at 25th Street including the crowded junctions of 25th Street at Chambliss Avenue and at Parker Street.
n Georgetown Road at Candies Lane.
n Georgetown Road at Cleveland Middle School.
“All of these locations have congestion problems at peak traffic times during the day,” Daniel said. “Hopefully, alternate timing in the controllers that would run at the specific times of the day will help alleviate some of this congestion.”
CU isn’t stopping with traffic light studies. The comprehensive task also includes projects that will involve either intersection changes or completely new traffic lights. Those identified so far, but are not limited to, include:
n Paul Huff Parkway at the new First Baptist Church of Cleveland: CU is contracting with Arcadis Engineering of Chattanooga to perform the warrant study and design for this project.
n Peerless Road at Paul Huff Parkway: This project involves extending Peerless Road north through the intersection. Additional traffic lights, steel poles and timing will be required. Daniel said a design plan was passed along to CU by existing city traffic engineers prior to the transition of responsibilities. Work on this intersection should begin by the end of March or first of April.
n Georgetown Road at Interstate 75 ramps: The design for this project has been completed and bids are being taken for the steel poles and mast arms for the lights. Work should begin by June 1.
“I think it is evident that we are going to be extremely busy over the next several months,” Daniel told the board. “Also, we are keenly aware that these congested areas can be aggravating and everyone would like to see improvements, including us.”
This is the reason for CU’s decision to contract with professional traffic engineers.
“We feel the approach of initially utilizing traffic lighting professionals to perform these studies is essential to making any needed changes as quickly as possible and at the same time allowing our staff’s knowledge and credentials to increase such that we can address these types of traffic needs ourselves in the future,” Daniel said.
He added, “So we are certainly asking for everyone’s patience while we try to help these situations.”
Daniel warned modern traffic lights are not always the answer.
“While many improvements in equipment and technique have occurred, traffic lights alone cannot always solve all the problems associated with moving traffic through an area,” Daniel stated. “Sometimes other solutions are needed such as additional lanes or even new roads which also cost a great deal of money.”
He added, “Timing can be a very complex issue that requires a great deal of traffic flow data and due diligence in interpreting that data to ensure that any timing programmed into the controllers will optimize traffic flow and not create another problem somewhere else.”
Over a period of time, CU will be reviewing traffic light operations, programming and flow on all six main Cleveland roadways — Keith Street, Paul Huff Parkway, 25th Street, Ocoee Street, Inman Street and Harrison Pike, and the downtown area.
CU is responsible for traffic lights at 74 intersections within the city and county. Previously, the utility had been responsible for only the installation and maintenance of traffic lights; the city’s traffic engineers were in charge of design and coordination timing. Effective Jan. 1, the City Council combined the traffic light functions and asked CU to oversee the consolidated role.