• Comment

Columbia County engineers use adaptive camera system to fight traffic congestion

Posted: July 1, 2015 - 12:14am

Randy Prickett knows the thrill of cruising through four miles of green lights along Wash­ington Road without having to stop between the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans and Bobby Jones Ex­press­way in Martinez.

The traffic engineer has ridden it, seen it happen on video and, through the help of two analysts, he hopes to make it an everyday occurrence in Columbia County.

Under his leadership, Prickett said, Columbia County became the first in Geor­gia this year to link all of its school-zone flashers and 65 signalized intersections to InSync, an adaptive traffic-control computer system that coordinates the timing of lights and enables them to “talk to one another.”

It’s the latest inventive technique Columbia County has used to fit more vehicles on roads and keep them moving. In the past three years, it has added roundabouts in Grove­town and Harlem to reduce stops and installed six digital message boards in Evans and Mar­ti­nez to alert motorists of construction delays and wrecks.

Despite the efforts, the roads at times remain clogged. With daily commuters increasing to more than 220,000 in the Augusta area, officials say more time and innovation is needed to prevent gridlock from worsening.

“We know we have traffic congestion,” said Prickett, who came to Columbia Coun­ty from Augusta as a special operations commander in Sep­tember. “The county has grown at such a rapid pace that it just takes time to adjust.”

Like many fast-growing suburban areas in the U.S., Colum­bia County is trying to keep from being strangled by its own success.

A special project by The Asso­ciated Press reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal High­­way Administration for more than 470 urbanized areas of the country and found that Augusta’s seven-county metropolitan region is growing at an exponential rate every five years.

The area’s population grew 4 percent this year from 2010, increasing to 590,233. By the time the Army Cyber Com­mand settles into its new home at Fort Gordon in 2020 and adds 3,700 employees to the workforce, the population is projected to increase an additional
9 percent to 618,174.

AP research shows local engineers worked to get ahead of the curve by extending the area’s road system from 2,459 miles in 2010 to 2,863 in 2013 – a 16 percent increase – but the expansion efforts have lost momentum, particularly in Columbia County.

The Georgia Department of Trans­portation is expected to finish a 2-mile widening of Columbia Road at North Belair Road in April, but the $7.9 million project “was delayed due to inclement weather and utilities” and is only 64 percent complete, said Augusta Area Engineer Rodney Way.

The two Columbia Coun­ty projects funded by the first wave of the state’s Trans­por­ta­tion Investment Act, which spans a two-year period ending in 2015, are progressing slowly under the penny sales-tax collection passed in 2012 to provide infrastructure improvements.

Way said the $34.1 million project to extend River Watch Parkway three miles to Evans’ Towne Center area is 29 percent complete. But so far only one-fifth of its costs – $6.9 million in sales-tax revenue – have been invoiced to grade for additional lanes, move utilities, install drainage structures and build a bridge over a nearby CSX railroad crossing, online records show.

Columbia County’s other TIA project, a $3 million upgrade of Wrightsboro Road in Grovetown that will add more turn lanes and updated traffic lights to reduce delays between Lewiston Road and Robin­son Avenue, has had only $250,859 invoiced to date to begin right-of-way authorization this month.

Way said the River Watch and Columbia Road projects are representative of the county’s “growth and vitality” and that widening each from two lanes to four will “better accommodate and safely serve the current and future travel demands of an area dealing with unprecedented growth.”

He said realigning intersections and railroad crossings along the two highways should drastically reduce congestion by eliminating the need for traffic to stop for trains and at lights close to each other.

Way said the upgraded roads will provide an alternate route for traffic that now relies on Washington Road to travel to downtown Augusta, the medical district and Interstate 20.

“A great deal of our current infrastructure is under-sized for the existing capacity, much less that of the future,” he said.

“Consider what your daily commute would be like if the infrastructure never adjusted to the increased volume. This loss of time and money would ultimately affect us as a whole.”

Way and Prickett said their departments are always studying traffic data and collaborating with local groups to improve the area’s roads.

Prickett said the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office will begin using six digital message boards on Washington, Furys Ferry and Belair roads this week to inform the public of accidents, construction delays and public safety alerts.

By the time school starts, Prickett expects to activate a new light at Baker Place Road and William Few Parkway. DOT has begun contract negotiations to build a “diverging diamond” interchange at Lewiston Road in 2017 to allow for unencumbered left turns onto I-20, Prickett said.

Last week, he tied in two four-mile corridors along South Belair and Furys Ferry roads into InSync to program the timing of lights and enable them to communicate with one another to ease gridlock near I-20 and the Savannah River. The two roads are one of six corridors in the InSync system that Prickett’s staff is watching, riding and analyzing video data from to determine the best traffic patterns for commuters. Others include Bobby Jones Expressway and North Belair Road.

Washington Road, the busiest thoroughfare in Columbia County, is divided into two corridors, with one portion extending from the Evans Wal-Mart Supercenter to Bobby Jones Expressway, and another from there to Baston Road.

Prickett said the InSync system works by releasing packs of cars, or “tunnels,” every 120 seconds and monitors their movement using a range of motion that centers on the speed limit and cars traveling 5 mph over.

“The whole idea is to get from the start of the tunnel to the end without stopping,” Prickett said. “If a driver is pulling too slowly they’ll stay out of the tunnel, but if they’re going too fast, they’ll get ahead and disrupt the flow. If we keep it going, we’re good.”

  • Comment

Comments (3)

TatianaChappy788

Knowing what seems to be

Knowing what seems to be doing us such great favor it could actually had been done in such way. - Green Water Technologies

ibyaaang1009

Thanks for posting this. This

Thanks for posting this. This is very informative! :)

increase instagram comments

jerryrice

It is a great method to

It is a great method to prevent car accidents in the future. These days, almost every company, public or private institution and even normal people uses a sort of a technology product to do their job better, faster and more efficient. For instance, increasingly more business people use the computers and other high-tech softwares, like the Cad Cam software for a number of uses. Incorporating in your business such high-end softwares to create much faster some parts is quite ingenious.