New signals slated to ease Lexington congestion

tflach@thestate.comAugust 18, 2013 

Every day at 4:30 p.m., Highway 378 in Lexington turns into a parking lot with no alternative route. Same at lunch time. Thhe reason is that strip malls with big national anchors like Target were allowed to spring up pretty much unfettered. Until some kind of solution is found to the traffic, growth is pretty much stymied out there. _COLUMBIA,SC,12/16/10_Photo by TIM DOMINICK/,©The State Media Co.

TIM DOMINICK/ — Tim Dominick/tdominick@thestate.

Lexington officials are banking on smarter traffic signals to reduce road congestion in their steadily growing community.

A computerized network of signals that adapt to traffic flow will be installed at 46 intersections inside and around the community in coming months.

Town leaders will outline the plan Monday to make Lexington the first municipality in the state to put it in place on all major roads.

The move gives state transportation officials an opportunity to see if technology is a faster and cheaper way to lessen traffic jams instead of spending up to $80 million on road improvements locally.

Mayor Randy Halfacre is eager to see if the proposal works well once it’s up and running by early 2015.

“This could be the future of traffic management in South Carolina,” he said. “We’re going to be the pilot project to see if it can succeed.”

Mile-long backups are common on U.S. 1, U.S. 378 and S.C. 6 — commuter routes that weave in and out of the town of 18,000 residents — during rush hours.

The new signals will be concentrated downtown where the three roads intersect. About 81,000 vehicles converge there daily, state traffic counts say.

Other signals will be on the town’s perimeter on routes like Wise Ferry Road and Old Cherokee Road so traffic jams aren’t shifted from inside town to its outskirts.

“This plan promises to be a huge benefit in easing congestion n our center,” Lexington County Council chairman Bill Banning of West Columbia said.

The network of what are known as adaptive signals is estimated to cost $4.5 million, with money coming from a variety of town, state and federal sources.

Cameras on traffic lights will feed vehicle flow into computers controlling signals. The cameras can’t be used to detect traffic violations, officials said.

Town Hall also could see several side benefits from the plan:

• The cameras work better on arms overhead instead of on poles, so decorative extensions recommended as part of a beautification effort are included.

• More shoppers could be attracted to a struggling downtown retail area if travel there is less of a hassle.

• It promises to give town leaders a clue on proceeding with road improvements downtown stalled by lack of money. “This is likely to give us a really good measure on whether we need to do that,” Halfacre said.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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