My dentist once told me to keep floss in my car and floss my teeth every time I had to sit at a red light. I might have the cleanest and healthiest teeth in all of Faulkner County simply because I drive down Oak Street about once a week. If anyone else did the same but drove Oak Street every day imagine how clean theirs would be.
There are six stoplights in a half mile on Oak Street. That’s from Hobby Lobby to Conway Commons. Finley Vinson, the head of the city’s Street and Engineering Department says there should be no more than two in that amount of distance. To help traffic flow better the city has applied for and received two grants. One will be used on Oak Street, the other on Dave Ward Drive.
The grant will allow the city to purchase Adaptive Signal Control technology. That’s fancy for the lights will be able to count how many cars are approaching and adjust accordingly.
Vinson says the current technology isn’t as smart as people think it is. "I had to stand at each intersection and count the number of cars myself, program those numbers into the computer in my cabinet, and set the signal times myself," says Vinson. With current detection technology a light will know when a car is waiting on it; but will have no idea how many cars are waiting.
Vinson goes on to explain the main issue with Dave Ward Drive is it’s saturated. The traffic signals don’t know that and have a hard time dealing with that. Vinson programmed in three different signal cycles (how long it takes for a light to go from green to red and back to green) based on traffic counts he took three separate times in one day. "When I programmed the traffic counts into the computer it told me it wouldn’t work. It was just too much traffic," Vinson said. So he programmed in traffic counts that would provide the best possible result.
Next year the new software and equipment will be installed on Dave Ward. Vinson is hoping you will notice immediately just by driving the route. Oak Street will be done some time after Dave Ward.
Issues are further complicated on Oak Street during holiday shopping times.
Vinson says, "The system will adjust to holiday shopping traffic but can’t handle saturation." Cameras on the new system will be able to see how many cars are approaching each intersection. The software will then keep a light green longer or red longer according to the cars it sees.
"People want to exit off the interstate and have all green lights all the way home," Vinson says, "that can’t happen for everyone but with this new technology Conway drivers as a whole will benefit."
My dentist might be very disappointed. I’ll most definitely need to find another time to floss; otherwise I might spend time I was using to sit at red lights, in his chair.
Melissa Gates is the Communications Specialist for the city of Conway. For more information visit www.cityofconway.org or follow @thecityofconway on Twitter.