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Posted at 7:03 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Arlington working to smooth commutes

By Christy Goodman

Traffic lights synched in real time, fewer delays due to accidents and more digital signs on the roads could lead to better commutes in Arlington over the next few years.

The Arlington County Board is considering approving more than $4.6 million at Saturday's board meeting to begin upgrading the county's traffic intelligence system. The first of three phases would lay six miles of fiber optic cable and connect 54 traffic lights to the existing system along portions of Clarendon/Wilson Boulevard, Glebe Road and Columbia Pike.

Wayne Wentz, chief of the transportation operations bureau, said he could "go on for days" when describing the technical benefits of the upgraded transportation system.

The county's 280 traffic lights are already set with a handful of preset patterns that traffic engineers can use to regulate traffic. The new system will be able to monitor traffic flow and make immediate signal adjustments for accidents, or to let a streetcar have priority, he said. The fiber-optic cable also will allow the county to add to its current supply of 29 cameras and changeable message signs.

"Because we'll be able to more quickly respond to incidents on the roadway, incidents might get cleared faster so motorists won't notice delays as often," Wentz said.

By the end of the year, there will be at least 17 more cameras on the road and two changeable signs on Route 50, Wentz said.

The total project is estimated to cost $20 million and take about five years to complete county-wide.

While the cables are being placed for the transportation network, the county also will lay another cable to connect all county buildings and departments.

By Christy Goodman  | January 20, 2011; 7:03 PM ET
Categories:  Northern Virginia  
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