Omaha keeps adjusting traffic lights

A traffic study has found that drivers heading east on Dodge Street in the afternoon have saved an average of more than 90 seconds since city workers reprogrammed traffic signals at intersections along downtown Dodge. from Omaha.

The study, conducted by the city of Omaha and engineering firm HDR, shows that it now takes drivers traveling east 6 minutes and 4 seconds to drive that stretch of Dodge during that time period.

That 20% decrease is the most notable time difference for a project that also changed signal times at Harney and Farnam Streets, as well as portions of Saddle Creek Road and 42nd Street.

Not all traffic signal adjustments have resulted in time savings for motorists along the city’s main east-west highway. For example, it now takes 36 seconds longer for a westbound Dodge Street passenger to travel through the downtown portion of the city during the evening rush, with an average time of 5 minutes and 36 seconds.

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Before the light timing changed, westbound drivers could drive that stretch in an average of 5 minutes during the afternoon rush, while it took eastbound drivers an average of 7 minutes and 36 seconds, a difference of 2 minutes and 36 seconds. Now, the difference is 28 seconds.

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Bryan Guy, the city’s assistant traffic engineer, said the trade-off of slightly increasing the time it takes westbound traffic to travel is worth it to create a more level playing field for traffic going in both directions.

“Given the traffic volumes that are out there today, across the entire network, we actually got an overall improvement,” he said.

Mike Forsberg, an HDR traffic engineering supervisor, said the traffic signals were also reprogrammed to give pedestrians an advantage. City officials have noted that the walk signals have been reprogrammed to display a walk signal before a green light.

“That corridor has quite a bit of foot traffic along and across it,” Forsberg said.

The reprogramming of downtown streets is the continuation of a larger project to reprogram most of the approximately 1,000 traffic signals throughout the city while upgrading signal equipment and technology. Before the launch of the project, all traffic lights in the city were powered by software that was developed in the 1970s and 1980s.

In addition to accounting for peak driving times, Guy said the city is rescheduling traffic signals to ensure better traffic flow at off-peak times.

“We can operate the signals differently (and) more efficiently when there is less traffic,” he said.

The overall project, according to a 2019 city document, is expected to save drivers 6.4 million hours through reduced traffic delays and another 603,000 hours through faster travel times. The reprogrammed traffic signals are also expected to save drivers 8.1 million gallons of fuel.

“Small changes can have big impacts,” Guy said.

Guy said the city is about 40% done with the overall project. Redevelopment projects in recent years include one focused on Center Street/West Center Road from 60th to 192nd streets in 2020. Proceeds from that 11-mile project, which involved rerouting 66 intersections, including 24 along some north-south streets, recorded an average journey times decrease during peak hours between 15% and 39%.

The city also reprogrammed traffic signals along 6½ miles of 72nd Street from Harrison to Maple streets, reducing the average travel time by just over 3 minutes, or 45%, for northbound traffic during the week. half day. Traffic signals along substantial portions of L and Q streets and Millard Avenue between 90th and 180th streets were also reprogrammed.

From the city’s perspective, the costs are relatively minimal compared to the financial benefits of fewer delays, less fuel consumption, and fewer accidents.

In the 2019 document, the Department of Public Works’ traffic engineering division estimated that it would cost just over $67 million to reprogram traffic signals and upgrade infrastructure.

In return, the division projected just over $546 million in benefits for those who use the city’s streets through measures such as fuel savings and a decrease in the number of crashes. Guy said users would also see indirect benefits, including time saved on their travels and a better quality of life with less pollution.

“Retiming projects are very profitable,” Guy said.

One of the biggest hurdles in the city’s quest to upgrade and reprogram its traffic lights? Timely financing.

The city has sought and continues to seek money from the federal government to pay for 80% of the project. While the city has received federal money through the US Department of Energy’s Air Quality Improvement and Congestion Mitigation Program, the funds have been pouring in.

Guy said the city has pursued more avenues for federal funding, including the $1.2 trillion Jobs and Infrastructure Act, but officials still aren’t sure if the traffic light projects will be eligible.

“We are going to find all the funds we can to help move this forward,” he said.

While there is no definitive completion date for what was originally anticipated as a 10-year project, the city has lined up more redevelopment projects along other major thoroughfares this year. The traffic signals are scheduled to be reset along 90th Street from Blondo Street to Blair High Road and Blondo Street from 72nd to 144th Streets.

Guy also said the city plans to reprogram the traffic signals along 144th Street from West Center Road to West Maple Road and Q Street from 144th Street to 90th Street this year.