A recently released government study shows Columbia County motorists are spending less time waiting out red lights along portions of Washington Road and might soon find it easier to travel nearly the entire length of the highway.
The study by the county's Traffic Engineering department showed motorists are taking an average of 37.6 seconds less to drive the Washington Road corridor between the Evans Walmart and Old Evans Road since the county installed the InSync Adaptive Traffic System in January.
The system links traffic signals with fiber-optic lines. The signals use motion-sensitive cameras and computers to create an intuitive traffic control system, which senses when a large number of vehicles gather at a red light. It changes the signal to green and follows the cars along the road, changing reds to greens as the group approaches each signal.
Upgraded signals include those on Washington Road from Walmart to Old Evans Road and those on North Belair Road from Hereford Farm Road to Industrial Park Drive.
Using GPS software, county traffic engineers conducted five eastbound and westbound trips on that corridor during four different times of the day -- the morning rush hour, noon, the afternoon rush hour and again in the evening before and after the InSync installation.
Travel times during the morning rush hour fell 10 percent to 15 percent. The number of times vehicles were stopped by traffic signals dropped 50 percent for eastbound motorists and 100 percent for westbound.
Travel time and stop reductions were even better during the afternoon rush hour.
Officials also say the traffic signal system is lowering vehicle emissions and eases fuel consumption.
"It's better than I expected," said county Traffic Engineer Glen Bollinger. "I could tell an immediate difference when I turned that system on. It's mind-boggling."
However, Manish Nashine's mind is less boggled.
"I haven't been able to tell a difference," said the Evans resident, who works at Club Car and travels Washington Road every day. "I suppose it could be better, but it hasn't been noticeable."
Katie Dachenhausen has noticed a difference. She lives in Augusta, but often travels on Washington Road through Evans.
"Comparatively speaking, I'm not waiting as long at red lights in Evans as I am in Richmond County," she said.
That might one day change if Columbia County traffic officials seek a partnership with their Augusta counterparts to extend the InSync system further down Washington Road into Richmond County.
Bollinger said the county is considering equipping all the traffic signals on Washington Road between Old Evans and Pleasant Home roads with InSync.
Augusta Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell said Richmond County officials are considering doing the same for 14 traffic signals on Washington Road from the county line to Calhoun Expressway.
The estimated $500,000 project will be paid for with stimulus funding, said Cassell, who hopes to soon send out requests for proposals.
"Once we get this going, it'll be one of the longest corridors in the country running InSync," Bollinger said.
He said he'd like to have the system in place for those traffic signals by fall, but his supervisor, Construction and Maintenance Services Director Matt Schlachter, is less certain about that time frame.
It costs about $20,000 per signal to install InSync, Schlachter said.
"We're still in the planning stages," he said.
"We haven't identified how far we're going to go with this, and we haven't identified any funding for it."
For Rosemarie Montigny of Martinez, the sooner the system is expanded the better.
She attends yoga classes each morning at the Family Y on Wheeler Road. On her way home, she often gets stuck on Davis Road waiting for the traffic signal to change to green so she can turn left.
"I'm usually there about 6:15 in the morning, with no other traffic on the road, just waiting," she said.
"It's ridiculous how long it takes. Sometimes, I just go through it."
To view the study, visit Columbia County's Web site at www.columbiacountyga. gov. Under the "government" tab, click on the Traffic Engineering department and find a link to the study at the bottom of the page.
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