Pawleys median project includes $1M traffic signal upgrade on US 17
PAWLEYS ISLAND S.C. — The project that will close the median on U.S. Highway 17 in Pawleys Island also includes an upgraded system that will coordinate the four traffic lights to reduce delays and travel times.
The “Adaptive Signal Control” system is funded by a $1 million federal grant secured by the S.C. Department of Transportation.
“We hope it makes a significance difference in delays,” said Mark Hoeweler, assistant executive director of the Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments.
“Adaptive is something the federal [government] has been promoting … trying to reduce delays and improve capacity on highways,” said Carol Jones of SCDOT.
There are only four of these systems in South Carolina.
Two – Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant just north of Charleston and S.C. 19 in Aiken – are operational. Two – Albright Road in Rock Hill and S.C. 133 in Clemson – are installed but still being tested.
“All the local governments that have used it, love it,” Jones said.
A fifth system is planned in Lexington.
When installed, the system will coordinate the existing traffic signals on Highway 17 at Martin Luther King Road and at the North Causeway, along with two new signals that are part of the project.
Using sensors, the system will monitor and coordinate traffic along Highway 17 and its side streets. For example, if 50 cars pass through the light at MLK around the same time, the system will coordinate the next three lights to keep traffic flowing.
The system will also adjust the length of a signal based on how many vehicles are trying to access the highway from a side street. If a group of cars is waiting on a side street, the green light for them will be longer.
A downside however, according to Jones, is that a single car with a red light on a side street during rush hour might have to wait longer as the system tries to keep traffic flowing on the highway.
The system doesn’t just coordinate the signals based on the live traffic. It will remember that on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. there is heavier traffic because church lets out and adjust accordingly. It will also adjust in the off-season when the amount of cars is less because there are fewer tourists.
Jones said systems like the “Adaptive Signal Control” are made possible by advances in technology and computers.
According to SCDOT, the system will improve travel time by 10 percent.
By Chris Sokoloski
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