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New traffic system could save headaches, time

Links lights from Sandy Springs to Milton

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April 28, 2014
NORTH FULTON, Ga. – Anyone who drives in North Fulton knows traffic is one of the largest problems the area has. Now Roswell, Alpharetta and Sandy Springs have banded together to try and fix this.

For the entirety of Ga. 9/Alpharetta Highway from Abernathy Road in Sandy Springs up to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta, each traffic light is joined to the others via a large, interactive system that is designed to make traffic flow better.

Called "Adaptive Traffic Control," the system joins 38 traffic cameras and more than 60 traffic lights that can all be controlled from a control room in Roswell.

From this control room, staffers can view live feeds of intersections and control signal timing in emergencies. More importantly, during the day-to-day grind, the software the system uses automatically adjusts signal length based on how traffic is at any given moment. If there is a backup at Mansell Road eastbound, the system may give that light more priority than Ga. 9 northbound until traffic lightens up.

"This is the most complicated, yet largely invisible, project we have ever undertaken," said Roswell Director of Transportation Steve Acenbrak.

Under typical systems, the lights are controlled either by a timer or basic programming based on whether there are vehicles stacking up in a direction. The adaptive system continually updates its timing to best alleviate backups. The problem with these formats is that they cannot handle emergencies or unusual traffic patterns. If there is an accident on Ga. 400, traffic begins to move onto Ga. 9, stressing the system much more than usual because it cannot adjust itself.

The new system will adjust itself to meet the new demand.

"This creates a smoother, more balanced flow, especially at peak times," Acenbrak said.

Roswell Traffic Engineer Muhammed Rauf said drivers should notice the difference.

"The peak hours change daily," Rauf said. "This notices variations at different times of the day. Before, we had set timings. But a Sunday during the holiday season has different traffic than any other Sunday."

This will change, he said.

It can also shorten the time to fix problems. Before, the city would have to rely on residents calling 911 to report a problem – such as an accident or a light malfunctioning. Then 911 would call either emergency services or transportation workers. Now, the system will automatically report issues, and workers in the control room will be able to see the issues in real time themselves.

Roswell has been building the system since 2008. Jointly funded with the federal government, Roswell's part of the project totaled $196,524. The construction of the project was federally funded at 100 percent, with Roswell's portion at $1,321,974. The project concept and design was conducted by URS Corporation and constructed by R.J. Haynie and Associates Inc. In Alpharetta, the entire project was installed and paid for by the state, said Pete Sewczwicz, Alpharetta transportation director.

This system is the second adaptive control system on a state road in Georgia. It is also the second multijurisdictional adaptive control in the state.

"This will make a difference in our lives," said Roswell Mayor Jere Wood. "We can spend more time doing things we enjoy and less time waiting for a light to change."


The intersections included in the Adaptive Traffic Control network are all on Ga. 9. These are,

1 Bethany Road

2 Windward Parkway

3 Henderson Parkway

4 Mayfield Road

5 Cumming Street

6 Academy Street

7 Old Milton Parkway

8 Maxwell Road

9 Wills Road

10 Upper Hembree Road

11 Hembree Road

12 Elkins Road

13 Sun Valley Drive

14 Houze Way

15 Mansell Road

16 Commerce Parkway

17 Holcomb Bridge Road

18 Woodstock Road

19 Norcross Street

20 Oak Street

21 Oxbo Road

22 Park Square Street

23 Marietta Highway

24 Riverside Road

MH 04-30-14

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Editor, Milton Herald
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Tags: Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    How will success be measured
    April 28, 2014 | 08:20 PM

    We are spending lots of money on these systems without a defined measure of success for these systems. When these systems are installed are we going to save a minute, five minutes, thirty minutes? How long does the trip take now and how much less time will the trip take in the future?

    An Observer
    Johns Creek
  2. report print email
    Adaptive traffic control
    May 01, 2014 | 02:33 PM

    It is about time!! The adaptive traffic control will make traffic flow work so much better than the current state of affairs and is worth every penny. I come from a major city where ADTC is in use and how fabulous it can be. Way to go in getting this system in place. Now, just put it in on windward, old milton and elsewhwere.

    K. Roden
  3. report print email
    Highway 9 needs four lanes.
    May 04, 2014 | 01:41 PM

    It is one single lane northbound parking lot north of Old Milton during the evening commute and even weekends when people go shopping. Same with southbound from Bethany in the mornings and on weekends. Synchronized lights will do nothing. And as unincorporated north Fulton continues to explode in growth, it's only going to get worth.

  4. report print email
    May 04, 2014 | 01:43 PM

    I meant "worse". Where's the edit button guys? Come on...

  5. report print email
    Traffic, grids, and suburban sprawl
    May 04, 2014 | 06:20 PM

    Anything we can do to facilitate more efficient traffic-flow is a good thing. Unfortunately, the fundamental problems are extensive.

    For starters, we've got a million people living in the greater East Cobb/North Fulton/South Forsyth general area, and only three bridges crossing the river.

    Add to that the insane suburban "design" (if it can at all be dignified with the word), of cul-de-sac riddled sub-divisions that, though they (cul-de-sacs) were invented to, "save the homeowner from the automobile", actually generate massive traffic for the greater area.

    Why? Because sub-divisions have one entrance, and everybody must get on the same "Collector Road" (that's what civil engineers call them), to access the greater area.

    Furthermore, all commercial development is strung along very few corridors, Hwy9, Holcomb Br., Mansell, etc., and everybody has to get on these roads at the same time, causing intolerable traffic congestion and gridlock.

    As the mayor of Roswell has said, in order for Roswell and adjacent areas to continue to grow, we have to build denser, because land-wasteful sub-divisions have filled up the entire area. (There is no more significant farmland in Roswell of which I am aware.)

    But if we don't put that new, denser development onto grids, with connecting thru-streets, the traffic on the main thoroughfares is only going to get worse. Much, much worse.

    In other words, we're going to have to connect the new grid-based developments with thru-streets to the old, cul-de-sac infested developments.

    This would actually drastically reduce traffic, because there would be multiple alternatives for everybody.

    And of course, East Cobb needs another bridge across the Hooch, and we probably need a few more upriver from the 400 bridge.

    Grids people! It's the only way to solve the long-term problem of our self-created, automobile-based nightmare.

    Sam England
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