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Richmond, Columbia counties installing more adaptive traffic signals

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 4:54 PM
Last updated 9:53 PM
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Poorly timed traffic signals that often hinder rather than help traffic flow could soon be a rarity in Richmond and Columbia counties.

Traffic approaches the intersection of Washington and Boy Scout roads.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Traffic approaches the intersection of Washington and Boy Scout roads.

Both are planning to install additional adaptive lights that adjust their timing based on traffic flow. After Columbia County tested the technology in 2009 on Washington Road, Richmond County followed by installing the signals on Washington from the John C. Calhoun Expressway to the county line.

Using the 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects, adaptive lights are coming to River Watch Parkway at the Interstate 20 interchange and Wheeler Road from I-20 to Walton Way Extension.

Adaptive traffic signals detect the number of cars on the road and communicate with other signals in the area. Ordinary signals use a computer system to set a fixed time for green and red lights, depending on the time of day.

Wrightsboro Road from North Leg to Barton Chapel Road and Gordon Highway near Fort Gordon also have the technology, said Augusta traffic engineer Steve Cassell.

“Overall, it seems a tremendous improvement,” he said.

Cassell said he’d like to see adaptive signals on Peach Orchard Road and other areas where traffic flow fluctuates for special events or rush hour. The lights, which cost between $20,000 and $30,000 each, are not in the county’s regular operating budget, and must be funded by special purpose sales taxes or grants, he said.

Columbia County has purchased the equipment to expand its adaptive system from 23 signals to all 71 lights in the county, said Matt Schlacter, the county’s director of construction and maintenance.

When complete, Columbia County will likely be the first county in Georgia to have a countywide adaptive signal system, Schlacter said. The system can cut a five-minute trip across town to a minute and a half.

“We will have all of them talking to each other all the time,” he said. “This system looks at the demand. It’s constantly adjusting the time to make sure you have the optimal flow.”

Adaptive signals are a less expensive way to improve traffic flow in place of costly road widening projects, Cassell said. Funding for road construction has been cut and become more difficult to obtain, he said.

Cassell said his department received the fewest complaints ever about traffic congestion on Wrightsboro Road near the Augusta Mall during last year’s Christmas shopping period because of the new lights.


What’s the longest traffic light in town? Which traffic lights are the most aggravating? Join the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 11/18/12 - 12:00 am

Count me in as unimpressed if the Washington Road traffic lights from Lake Olmstead to Pleasant Home Road are "adaptive." I sit for long periods of time trying to cross Washington Road at Pleasant Home, Fury's Ferry, Stevens Creek, and Alexander roads. And when I'm travelling Washington Road, I find myself waiting and waiting and waiting. Something is not right with the adaptation they have foisted upon us.

Just My Opinion
Just My Opinion 11/18/12 - 10:39 am
I go to work very early in

I go to work very early in the morning. Sometimes I find myself sitting at a redlight while NOBODY is coming through the "green side" of the light. If this happens for 2 days in a row, I've learned the best thing to do is call the county information line, and they will forward the info to the correct department. They will send a truck out to check the switches. I've been told that the pedestrian cross-walk switches can alter the timing of the lights at odd times. So, learn your county's info number and call them about the problem, so they can send someone out to check on it.

TParty 11/18/12 - 01:21 pm
With so many people running

With so many people running red lights in the area, who needs lights anyways?

Sweet son
Sweet son 11/18/12 - 01:58 pm
If the lights can talk to each other............

then I would like to be able to talk to them and tell them to turn green! :)

Redstevo 11/19/12 - 10:34 am
For the Students

As a recent ASU grad from South Augusta, I always found it frustrating to wait at the intersection of Highland and Gordon Highway to go straight on to Wheeless Road. As the person noted above, people are sitting in their cars waiting even if no one is coming through the "green side" for an extended period of time. Cars that are half a mile away down Gordon Highway can often come through this intersection with no problem, leaving us waiting.

The other intersection I sometimes have issues with is Augusta West Parkway and Wrightsboro (where the Shopping Center sign is located). During the early evenings, cars may sometimes be backed up all the way to Miyabi's Restaurant waiting to go through. This wouldn't affect me much usually but I often have to work in this area.

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