City Council discusses traffic light system

Erin Roof

Kent City Council voted unanimously yesterday to apply for funding for a $4.6 million plan to improve the city’s traffic signal system.

The resolution allows city manager Dave Ruller to seek money from the Federal Air Quality funds to convert the current traffic signal system to a more sophisticated computerized version.

“The city is going to synchronize traffic signals,” Ward 6 Councilwoman Beth Oswitch said.

In the current system, traffic lights function more independently, Ruller said. The new system will better streamline traffic flow.

“All the signals are tied into a central computer,” he said. “The computer gives you the ability to better match signal timing with real needs in the street.”

The new centralized system will allow Kent to use the best technology, Ruller said.

Another benefit from synchronized traffic signals will be improving traffic movement and safety, Ruller said.

“When traffic is flowing better, there is less frustration in vehicles,” he said. “As congestion diminishes, typically pedestrian safety improves, too. You can optimize timing of signals. That allows time to dedicate to pedestrians crossing.”

If the city receives funding for the plan, implementation of the system will not begin until 2010.

Implementation of the system will take place in two phases, Oswitch said. The first phase will incorporate Haymaker Parkway and Water Street. The second phase will add the technology to signals along West Main Street.

The council also held a public hearing yesterday regarding public proposals for spending federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

Sue Whitehurst, executive director of Townhall II, said the grant funds are essential.

“It is critical to agencies like Townhall II overtime,” she said. “It has really been a trickle-down effect.”

The council will accept other grant spending proposals until Feb. 24. Another hearing about the funding is scheduled for May.

Contact public affairs reporter Erin Roof at [email protected].